Review: Arthur

Helen Mirren and Russell Brand work well together in the disappointing remake of  Arthur .
Helen Mirren and Russell Brand work well together in the disappointing remake of Arthur .

(PG) **

Director: Jason Winer.

Cast: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte.

IF you're not a fan of Russell Brand before watching this film, you still won't be afterwards. In fact, you probably should think twice about watching it.

Brand's drunken lothario schtick is in full flight here, which actually makes him perfectly suited to the titular role made famous by Dudley Moore in the '81 original.

But Brand's Arthur is an uneven character in a messy remake - as much the script's fault as Brand's - and no matter how much he mugs or how often his wit actually sparkles, he can't salvage the film.

For those unfamiliar with the original, Arthur Bach is the playboy heir to a massive fortune that is threatened to be withdrawn by his icy mother (Geraldine James)if he doesn't marry the suitably respectable socialite Susan (Garner).

Naturally, Arthur falls in love with someone else, the delightful Naomi (Gerwig), and Arthur is torn between a penniless future with the woman he loves or maintaining his opulent lifestyle in a loveless marriage to Susan.

The film is sporadically funny, and Brand has some good moments, but his character swings wildly from petulant man-child, upper-class genius, amiable drunkard, hopeless romantic and dangerous lunatic, making it hard to get a fix on him or to make him totally likeable or even enviable.

Thank the gods then for Mirren, who plays Hobson - Arthur's "nanny" and stand-in mother. She gives the film a heart and soul it desperately needs, and her shared scenes with Brand are when the movie comes alive. Mirren nearly saves the movie as much as Nolte's bizarre cameos nearly destroy it.

It's strange to think back on the film and realise that Mirren is great, Gerwig and Garner are solid in supporting roles, and Brand has flashes of brilliance amid the annoying bits.

But somehow the whole thing doesn't hold together, instead feeling like episodes of a TV show - "Arthur gets a job", "Arthur goes to AA", "Arthur goes on a date", "Arthur meets the psychotic father-in-law". Maybe you'd be better off watching the original.