In true [modern] Hollywood fashion, Arthur serves as a remake to the film of the same name from thirty years ago that featured Dudley Moore in the starring role. This time around, Russell Brand steps in as the title character and offers a fair modern retelling of the story of the immature son of a wealthy family who is being forced to marry into another wealthy family. Despite his raging immaturity, Arthur falls in love with a commoner from Queens and he's determined to find a way to marry her instead. Throw in an immense amount of alcohol and frequent off-color sexual innuendos and you have 2011's Arthur.
Television director Jason Winer (Modern Family, who has also acted in small roles for films like Van Wilder) makes his feature film directorial debut with a popular 80's film remake. While I haven't seen the original 1981 film about a drunken spoiled billionaire, I can tell you that it was pretty well received in its day and even spawned a sequel, Arthur 2: On The Rocks, seven years later. Russell Brand actually does a pretty decent job carrying this modern update, but not without bringing some of his usual crass schtick to the film. After watching some of the more raunchy gags included on the Blu-Ray special features, it's kind of a wonder why they even bothered trying to tame Brand's crude humor for a movie like this, but Arthur does end up bringing with it just enough laughs and heart to make it watchable. However, it's still a long way from being a good film.
Part of the movie's problem may be its tone. I don't usually enjoy even the PG-13 brand of crude comedies and Arthur seems to try hard to squeeze as much of that into it while keeping the title character charmingly dimwitted enough to still be likeable. When you have a film's "hero" as self-centered, uneducated and spoiled as this guy, it's tough to want to root for him. However, Russell Brand does a pretty good job making him come off as a bit of a victim of his circumstances without fully (and appropriately) letting him off the hook for the choices he continues to make as a result of it. Arthur Bach is a full-on alcholic who plays all day and all night and never quite grew up. Helen Mirren watches over him as his "nanny," Hobson, who cares for him but doesn't mother him in the way he needs for her to force him to mature. His actual mother, Vivian, is too busy running the family's billion-dollar corporation and hoping Arthur can grow up as not to continue to smear the family name across newspaper headlines. In fact, Vivian gets so sick and tired of his juvenile horseplay that she threatens to cut him off if he doesn't marry fellow rich girl Susan Johnson, who is played by Jennifer Garner (who abandons the usual "good girl" roles for this one). The last thing he wants to do is marry Susan, and he inconveniently meets the girl of his dreams soon thereafter - a wannabe tour guide who is just as fun-loving as he is, but a bit more level-headed and mature. She begins to encourage Arthur to grow up and it's really the scenes between the two of them that work the best. Arthur's right-hand man, Bitterman, is wonderfully portrayed by the ever-reliable Luis Guzmán, who also helps provide some of the film's best moments when Bitterman and Arthur are clowning around. The movie opens as Arthur and Bitterman are suiting up in Batman and Robin garb before taking the Batmobile, from the 1990's Batman film franchise, for a spin. Another highlight is when the two are seen riding in the DeLorean from Back To The Future and carry on a coversation inside of it before the scene ends. There are a few fun and whimsical moments too, but ultimately, its average script and crude jokes are what really drag the film down.
The content, as mentioned, consists mostly of bedroom jokes and some actual sexual situations. The worst of the latter happens when Susan shows up at Arthur's in corset lingerie, while she's completely drunk, and forces herself on him. It doesn't go too far before Arthur escapes, but it isn't before she nearly tears his shirt off and whips him like a horse before pulling his pants off as he crawls away. The film's dialog consists of plenty of references to Arthur's flings with prostitutes and wild living, as well as genetalia jokes and the like. The profanity is suprisingly tame for such a film (and considering its star), but unfortunately the bulk of the profanity included is blasphemy. There is mostly comedic violence, if any, with the worst being Nick Nolte pulling two slightly bloody nails out of his body after Arthur unknowingly shoots him with a nail gun. Lastly, Arthur drinks very, very heavily throughout the entire movie and is drunk in most of his scenes. While you want to see the movie get a happy resolution, you have to wonder why any girl would want to be with a guy like that and you almost feel bad wishing a nice girl on him.
Arthur does have some heart and a satisfying resolution, which almost bring a semblance of redemption to the story, but it's a rough road getting to that point. You could certainly do a lot worse for entertainment than the 2011 revisit to Arthur, but there isn't enough here worth a recommendation.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/14/11)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
I didn't see Arthur on the big screen, but it translates fine in high definition. While it's not a movie that begs to be seen in Blu-Ray high def, it's pretty crisp and clear and the colors are vibrant. However, the colors may be a bit too vibrant if not too high in contrast at times.
Along with the feature film are a few bonus features...
Arthur Unsupervised -- This is just what you can guess it to be. For this short featurette, director Jason Winer talks about the improvisation that took place on the set and Russell Brand's unbridled mischief. While it doesn't go quite as far as you might expect it to, there's still a fair amount of uncensored profanity (including several uses of the "F" word) and some crude, sexual jokes. Sadly, it's the movie's only behind-the-scenes featurette and offers the only cast interviews. Still, you wouldn't miss much if you skipped watching it. (Profanity in this segment includes 5 "F" words - 4 from Russell Brand, 1 from Jennifer Garner; 1 "c*ck;" 1 "d*ckheads;" 3 "S" words; 2 "h*ll;" 4 "G-d;" 6 "a" words, and assorted sexual humor)
Additional Footage -- This is a series of alternate/deleted and extended scenes. The first is a scene where Arthur argues with Hobson about calling Naomi back. The next, titled "Stung by Love Wasps" is a longer version of when Bitterman drops Arthur off to talk to Burt Johnson. The two are sitting in the Back To The Future DeLorean and make some great time travel jokes while Arthur tries to explain to Bitterman that he loves Naomi but not Susan. It's a wonderful exchange between the two, but it does go on for much too long. The third scene is a short deleted sequence of when Arthur walks Naomi to her place. Next is an alternate scene titled "Employment Office Meltdown." It takes place right after Arthur botches the job interview by admitting he has no computer experience. Instead of the interview ending right there (as it does in the finished film), he's told to go to a separate employment window for paperwork and it becomes a montage of moments where he ultimately messes up the whole process. The sixth sequence is a brief extended version of his appearance at the AA meeting. Basically, it's just Bitterman giving him the pieces that make up the goofy disguise he wears to the meeting. Next is a short deleted scene called "Apology Breakfast" where Arthur brings breakfast to Hobson in bed. An alternate scene titled "I'm a Slippery Eel" follows, which is another version of Bitterman finding Arthur in the bathtub the day of the wedding. The scenes are decent additions to the extra features, but none add all that much (although I did enjoy the chat in the DeLorean). Also, the video quality is much more washed out and desaturated than the film itself. It appears to be more along the lines of standard definition quality.
Gag Reel -- The gag real is about a minute or so long and features maybe one good laugh, while the rest are a couple bleeped out profanities and a gag where Helen Mirren adlibs the frog and toad story a bit... inappropriately.
Arthur boasts a lot of talent but doesn't rise above mere mediocrity. The Blu-Ray release is OK, although it does pack a generous Blu-Ray Disc, DVD and Digital Copy combo, and the special features are a bit weak. Fans of the movie will enjoy this release, but the rest of us can just pass it by.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/14/11)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: We see Bitterman in a small outfit as Batman's sidekick Robin, with briefs-like bottoms on; Arthur crashes his car into a gigantic golden bull and complains about the size of the bull's testicles and doesn't like having its "balls" in his face; Arthur says to someone "see you at the cock fight! It better be what I think it is;" In Arthur's place there's a portrait of him next to a girl wearing animal ears and on "all fours" showing some cleavage; Hobson walks in on Arthur while a girl is on top of him in bed. She's clothed but he's shirtless. The nanny comments that Arthur was breastfed until he was six as she picks up the girl's bra and throws it at her, telling her not to expect him to get used to her breasts. Hobson then pulls the covers off Arthur and we see him in a small pair of briefs; We see Arthur's bare upper torso while in a bath and Hobson comes in to see what Arthur dubs as "Lesbian Simon & Garfunkel" walking down the street outside his window. As she leaves, she tells him to "wash your winkie... thoroughly" and makes a comment about the girl he was just with probably having some kind of disease "between her legs;" Susan comments that Arthur's the only guy she's slept with who has broken up with her; We see photos of Arthur making out with girls at a party (and he holds two oranges in front of his clothed chest in one). He then comments that he didn't know that they weren't 18 or actually men. We then see another photo of him wearing a kilt with his legs spread as he's getting out of a car and his exposed genitals blurred out; Arthur tells Vivian that he has a video of Susan that "would knock your socks off;" Arthur makes up a story about running nude through Grand Central Station with a girl, but it's not true; Arthur comments to Hobson that Naomi is like her but with a greater chance of having sex; Arthur likens the appearance of an under-construction high rise floor to a "gay club" he'd "been to once;" When he tells Susan he likes other girls, she said it's ok and that he should invite her over (presumably for a threesome); In trying to embarrass Susan, he kisses a miscellaneous woman passionately and tells Susan that that woman is probably pregnant now. He then walks off into a restaurant's kitchen where he hold two steel bowls over his chest and proclaims "I'm a naughty robot! I have metal "t*tties!" He then holds up a sausage and uses a blow torch on it and says that that's how she makes him feel; Naomi tells some tourists that some statues sometimes come alive and (among other things) go to "strip clubs;" As Arthur is forced to ride a horse (after Burt sort of grabs Arthur's crotch as he's hoisting him onto the horse), Arthur exclaims "When will my testicles get some rest!"; Susan threatens Arthur that Burt will cut off his "balls" (with the table saw) and Arthur responds "Not if I keep them moist!" (referring to moisture causing the blade to stop); Susan shows up at Arthur's in a trench coat with a corset lingerie outfit on. She then lays suggestively on his bed acts like a cat. When he tries to get her to leave, she rips his shirt open. He tries to encourage her to leave some more, but she knocks him on the floor and pounces on top of him. The scene cuts away and when we come back to him, she's on top of him (both are clothed) and she's whipping him like a horse (she shows lots of cleavage in her lingerie). She then rips open his pants. As he crawls away, she pulls them to his ankles and we see him in his briefs again; Arthur comments to Naomi that "when I sunbathe nude, I get the strangest looks;" While at an AA meeting, Hobson stands up and confesses to being an alcoholic on his behalf. She talks from his perspective, saying she "slept with three princesses" and that she vomitted on two and urinated on the third. She then adds that she was wondering if she has some venereal disease because of the loose lifestyle. Instead of Arthur owning up to the story she just told about him, he comments to the room, "It's always the quiet ones" (as if what she said was really her lifestyle); Vivian tells Arthur to "marry Susan and cheat with the nobody from Queens;" We see Arthur shirtless in his bath again; Hobson sarcastically tells Arthur that Naomi is a little "tart" that would have saved Arthur a fortune in prostitutes. He then calls her a "Mary Poppins with menopause;" Susan opens up a box of lingerie at her bridal shower and Arthur jokes that she might find him in it sometime. She then gets grape shears and he jokes that she'll use them for his castration; Arthur has Hobson wear a Darth Vader helmet and asks her to repeat the lines "Wash your winkie" and "If you have to pay them, it's not love;" We see a party happening around Arthur and as he walks into his bedroom, we see what might be people messing around on his bed (we just see clothed legs on the bed quickly from behind him). The next morning, we see him lying clothed in his bathtub with a miscellaneous bra draped over the side of it; We see Bitterman tucking Arthur's shirt pretty far into his pants; Arthur remarks that he probably slept with three of the bridesmaids; Arthur strips down to just his briefs at a wedding ceremony. We then see him in just his briefs for a few scenes afterwards; At an AA meeting, Arthur mentions having been with a prostitute
Vulgarity/Language: 2 "S" word; 2 "J*sus," 1 "g*dd*mn," 9 "G-d;" 2 "bloody h*ll," 1 "t*tties;" 2 "pr*ck;" 1 "h*ll," 1 "b*tch"
Alcohol/Drugs: During the opening montage, we see lots of alcoholic bottles and Arthur putting them on a utility belt. He then drives drunk and crashes his car. The officer says he's drunk again and Arthur insists he's been drunk since their last encounter; We see the aftermath of a party at Arthur's where we see a lot of drunk and passed out people in the morning; Arthur tries to drink at breakfast but Hobson takes it away; Arthur drinks while in a bath; Arthur grabs a drink when he visits his mom at work; Arthur has vodka in his water bottle while boxing; Burt tells Arthur that Susan once bought a crackhouse and turned it into a condo. Arthur then says "That's funny, I once did the exact opposite;" Arthur orders tequila and soon guzzles a bottle of champagne; We see Arthur drinking from a flask; Naomi and Arthur have some wine at dinner; Susan shows up at Arthur's with a bottle of champagne. She ends up being drunk after having consumed 2 bottles; Naomi and Arthur share his flask; Arthur takes a swig from his flask at his new job; We see Arthur drunk and drinking while dressed up as a gummy bear at work in a candy store; Hobson and Arthur go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and we hear from one man talking about being drunk and accidentally backing over his mother with his car. Arthur chickens out and starts to leave, so Hobson stands up and confesses about being an alcoholic but from Arthur's perspective (talking on Arthur's behalf); We see Arthur drinking from a flask in the back of his limo; Arthur pours some liquor into his coffee cup; At a party we see Arthur carrying a bottle of liquor; We see Arthur completely drunk at a wedding; As Arthur tells a story to little kids about a prince having trouble with never having enough candy, they guess that he means "drugs," "meth," or "crack" and he says "No! It was just booze!"
Blood/Gore: We see a man with a nail sticking out of his arm and one out of his shoulder, with a little blood around both. He then pulls the one in his shoulder out and throws it. We then see him pull the one out of his bare forearm with some more blood around it; Arthur has a slight abrasion on his chin; Arthur has a bloody lip
Violence: Arthur crashes his car into a huge statue; We see Arthur boxing with Evander Holyfield; Hobson punches Arthur with boxing gloves; We see Arthur firing a nail gun blindly at a plastic sheet. A man then emerges with a nail sticking out of his arm and one out of his shoulder. He then pulls them out; Burt makes Arthur lick a table saw. When he does, the saw withdraws into the table; Susan smacks Arthur's leg with reigns while they're on a horse; Arthur accidentally falls down a flight of stairs; Arthur tells Hobson that he cut his hand while preparing her food and that there might be blood in it. His hand is wrapped up because of it; Susan pounces on Arthur in his bedroom and swats him with her horseriding stick; A woman punches a man in the face
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.