At this point there is no doubt that British comedian Russell Brand can play an endearing rascal with the greatest of ease. Not only did he portray the wacky rock star Aldous Snow in the romantic comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” but he also reprised the role in the spin-off film “Get Him to the Greek,” which featured the character in his own comically debaucherous adventures.
His latest movie “Arthur,” a remake of a 1981 Dudley Moore picture, has Brand starring in the title role, as a rich ne’er-do-well with a drinking problem. Arthur is a child trapped in a man’s body, but Brand’s loveable scamp is still charming because of his consistently droll sense of humor. He possesses a certain whimsical nature and unabashed honesty that you can’t help admiring.
Arthur lost his father as a young boy, leaving his mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) to raise him on her own. The wealthy socialite was always more interested in her business than raising a child, so she hired Hobson (Helen Mirren), as full time nanny to look after him.
Even though Arthur matured physically, he never grew up emotionally, because he was never forced to earn anything for himself. As a result, Arthur now drinks to excess, parties, womanizes, and engages in outlandish behavior that embarrasses his mother, all while Hobson continues to clean up after him.
When Arthur gets arrested for his latest stunt, Vivienne decides she can no longer tolerate his antics. To reform him, she fixes him up with her employee Susan (Jennifer Garner), and then she issues Arthur an ultimatum: he must marry Susan or he will be cut off from his riches. While he has no interest in marrying the uptight and manipulative Susan, he reluctantly agrees because he can’t live without his money.
What Arthur does not count on though, is stumbling onto true love, when he meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a tour guide struggling to support her elderly father. The resulting chaos that ensues from having two women in his life is hilarious but it also challenges Arthur in positive ways though to mature as an individual.
As a former drug addict in real life, Brand brings unique believability to Arthur, because he has actually survived wild partying. He channels his previous experiences into functional intoxicated behavior like muttering ridiculous thoughts that pop into his head.
What’s impressive about these humorous musings is that they seem to be skillfully improvised. A prime example is a particularly uproarious scene, where Brand is at a piano drinking and making up songs about the various gifts Susan is receiving for her bridal shower.
Aside from Brand himself, part of what makes “Arthur” so funny is that the character has multiple comedic foils: his mother, his nanny, and his fiancé. He banters with each one in a humorous way, unleashing his drunken thoughts and unfiltered honesty upon them. Having more than one verbal sparring partner provides him more opportunities to make you laugh.
While “Arthur” is a comedy, it still effectively balances laughs with serious moments. They are strategically used in the appropriate places to teach Arthur important lessons yet thankfully the filmmakers convey emotional moments without being heavy handed in their delivery. If you’re looking for a lighthearted comedy about growing up and finding love, then you’ll get a kick out of “Arthur.”
My Grade: A-