Who doesn't love to go to the movies to see a spoilt, alcoholic, reckless billionaire get a happy ending? I have a feeling that everybody who reads this review will give a resounding answer of "Me". If a drunk playboy billionaire was caught doing over 150 mph in a fast car in New York City and destroying a famous landmark, then the public would be baying for his blood and demanding that he be locked up to stop him being a danger to himself and more importantly, others. But when Arthur Bach is that billionaire and the fast car is the Batmobile, yes the Batmobile, then it's so gosh darn lovable!
By the second scene I was already starting to use my brain for more useful things, such as thinking up anagrams for the stars of the film. The best I could come up with was "Blander slurs" for Brand's somewhat tamer comedic approach since crossing the Atlantic, and "Her inner elm" for Mirren's 'Be the tree' style classical dramatic training. Although they'll never be as good as the famous 'Actor Sylvester Stallone' anagram, "Very cool talentless star", they both sum up nicely as what I see to be part of the success and failure of the film.
Brand's US audience have grown tired of his one-note performances that censors keep at a family viewing level and his UK audience miss his crazy off-the-cuff stand-up that seems to have been caged since his move overseas. This difficulty to find a middle ground results in a performance that we've all seen before, but that shocks nobody; thus losing his comedic niche. I think the dry sense of humour will appeal to the Brits, but the rest of the film is distinctly American, which jars with the wit. Mirren's acceptance of the role of Hobson, which John Gielgud made famous and won an Oscar for in the original, was pleasantly surprising. Despite Brand's charm and banter, Mirren is the heart of the film and adds some much needed class and dignity to the affair.
Greta Gerwig, in her biggest role to date, plays Brand's commoner love interest well. She is relatable and guffaws at Arthur's audacity along with the audience. She is also more resolute than we give her credit for at the beginning of the movie and despite not being able to steal Brand's shine, she is more likeable than Liza Minelli's counterpart in the original. Jennifer Garner is completely miscast as the cold-hearted, power-hungry bitch that Arthur must marry or lose his inheritance. She doesn't work in the role as she's simply too nice to play the part.
If you've noticed that until this point I have not compared Brand to Dudley Moore in their portrayals of the role, then congratulations and 10 points will be awarded to Gryffindor. The reason I have not compared them to this point, is that they are completely different. Brand's Arthur is actually completely the same drunk as he is sober. But if you have seen the original and enjoy Moore's performance, then give this a miss; you will be disappointed. Both portrayals have their hits and misses, but this version works better if you haven't seen the original.
This movie works as a guilty pleasure and there will be an audience for it, much to critics' chagrin. Fans of Brand and rom-coms of a Jennifer Aniston standard will like this. Although it's not a solid performance, Brand has done what most said he couldn't do; he has played a Hollywood leading man. Go and see it if you are wanting to watch a date movie, it will work better than others out this week such as Fast and Furious 5 (although thrashing all low expectations, Fast5 is a better film!).
EXTRAS ★ Arthur Unsupervised (11:17), which is Brand and Winer going behind the scenes of the film; a gag reel (1:24); and deleted scenes (10:21).