Friday, April 8, 2011

For Love, 'Arthur' Makes Rich Sacrifice

Arthur (Russell Brand) and Hobson (Helen Mirren) both looking rather put-out in "Arthur." Photos from 2011 Warner Bros.

RUSSELL Brand is one of the latest UK imports whose star is rising in the United States.

It could near its zenith or plunge toward the nadir with the remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore vehicle, “Arthur.” It opens nationwide today.

This latest version of “Arthur” hues pretty closely to the original. One major difference is that Arthur does not have a butler named Hobson, rather he has a nanny named Hobson in the person of RB’s “The Tempest” costar“Helen Mirren.” She’s no John Gielgud, but count on Dame Helen to get the job done.

In version 2011, the alcoholic Arthur will lose his multibillion dollar “heirdom” if he does not marry the nouveau riche socialite, Susan, an almost unrecognizable Jennifer Garner. Susan is all a red-blooded British should want, except Arthur doesn’t have anything in common with her, he complains to his overbearing and unsympathetic mother (Geraldine James).

Linda (Greta Gerwig facing away from camera), Arthur (Russell Brand) and Susan (Jennifer Garner) form an unlikely love triangle in "Arthur."

Arthur’s heart is with aspiring children’s book author and actual tour guide, Linda (Greta Gerwig). Believing that love can conquer all, Arthur gives life a whirl as a member of the working class. This conundrum/experiment informs the action in the film.

Critics loved DM’s “Arthur.” So far they have been mostly unkind to RB’s rendition. In addition to acting, the recovering alcoholic has a role in the film as executive producer. Among major film critics, Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) stands almost alone in anything approaching general praise for the film. Even early fan reviews are mixed, with most of the unfavorable sort. (

Yet, bets are that “Arthur will do decently, if not, well at the box office. While RB is a bad boy of sorts, he is fluent in the publicity game. He reads as lovable despite his various peccadilloes. For evidence of his art, catch his appearances on “The View” or any of those shows with direct lines to Middle America.

Arthur (Russell Brand) having a very romantic dinner with Linda (Greta Gerwig), the woman he truly loves in "Arthur."

With each film – from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” to last year’s “Get Him to the Greek,” “Despicable Me” and a smallish role in “The Tempest” – RB seems to be easing his way closer to the heart and pysche of the country, and maybe even the movie-going world.

Surely, time will tell. For now there is “Arthur,” for better or worse.

“Arthur” is rated PG-13 for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references.

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