I can't explain why there is a remake to Arthur. But I read an interview with the director, Jason Winer, who offers this explanation:
"Why would you do a remake of Arthur?" That's a great movie. It was one of my favorite movies, growing up as a kid. But, I was certainly curious, and I became more curious when I heard that Russell Brand was attached to play Arthur. I thought, "Well, it has been 30 years since the original, and there's a whole generation of people that haven't even heard of the original movie. If there's one guy on the planet that would reinvent the role for a new generation, it's Russell."
Perfect reasoning, right? I suppose, if you can't find the DVD because it's been out of print, then yes. But the last time I checked it was still available.
Maybe you haven't heard of Dudley Moore, or Liza Minnelli. Maybe an '80s movie called Arthur with some guy you never heard of sounds like a perfectly terrible waste of time.
But there is something wrong with Winer's reasoning. What he says about the original movie can be applied to anything.
What better way to introduce kids to Prince, than by introducing them to the tribute band, Purple Rain?
Oh, wait. That would not be the way to introduce Prince to a new generation.
If you want an introduction to Arthur, my recommendation is to rent it. Dudley Moore is a riot, and he shares brilliant chemistry with Liza Minnelli. But if you'd rather see someone else imitate what Dudley Moore did 30 years ago, then see this new film instead.
Because for all of Russell Brand's talents, I would call this a very good imitation. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Tribute bands do it all the time! But if you want to hear Prince, do you settle for getting a ticket to see Purple Rain, or do you just download Prince on itunes? That is essentially the decision we are faced with this weekend.
The remake follows the same plot as the original. A lazy, rich, alcoholic man-child must learn to grow up. The supporting cast is great: Arthur's servant from the original, "Hobson", is now a woman with the same name, played by the always legendary Helen Mirren. And for once Jennifer Garner gets a role perfectly suited for her, as the leprous "Susan", the woman who Arthur is forced to marry against his will. Greta Gerwig is the charming love interest for Arthur.
There is one element of this remake saving it from complete and total blasphemy. Brand and his cast are funny because there are some great jokes in the script by Peter Baynham and Steve Gordon. I give more credit to the writers for taking funny chances than I will give to Brand for copying someone else's shtick.
The question on (almost) everybody's mind is: does this remake hold a candle to the original film?
Is the tribute band Purple Rain as good as Prince?
Two out of four stars.
Arthur opens everywhere in theaters today.