Fortune's child

The most hysterical thing about the new Arthur (as opposed to the old Arthur, the 1981 movie starring Dudley Moore) is the instant wave of hatred it has drawn from the nation’s 10 million movie reviewers. Their objections are several. Many appear to feel that the new film sullies the memory of the first one—as if that agreeable entertainment were some sort of sacred text. Others find the picture formulaic (it’s a romantic comedy, a genre always high on critical hit lists) and decry the non-judgmental depiction of its titular multimillionaire in the midst of our current economic meltdown (as if the original Arthur had not itself been released on the cusp of a deepening recession—and as if Hollywood had never produced grand, sumptuous musicals in the pit of the Great Depression). There are also those indignant about the movie’s comedic view of alcoholism (as if William Powell’s martini-marinated Thin Man films had never bestrode the box office), and more yet who resent the presence here, in the old Dudley Moore role, of Russell Brand, a more-than-usually irritating English import, in their view, who’s being force-fed to the indiscriminate moviegoers of this great nation.

I must pronounce myself baffled. Walking out of the movie before I became aware of this monolithic vituperation, I thought it was a fresh and more-than-usually funny rom-com, and that the transformation of Brand from the amusingly addled rock star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall into a full-fledged romantic lead had here been completed. In addition, for a love interest he’s been engagingly paired with onetime indie queen Greta Gerwig (whose onetime admirers are now bewailing this Hollywood sell-out). I can’t imagine anyone who enjoys well-made romantic comedies not enjoying this one.

The story remains approximately the same. Brand’s Arthur is a good-hearted Manhattan wastrel, a round-the-clock lush and heir to a vast fortune. Arthur uses his money for fun—not just accumulating a fleet of pricey cars (including a flame-spewing Batmobile), but also withdrawing thousands of dollars from ATMs to simply give away on the street. Unfortunately, his frosty mother (Geraldine James) has about had it with her son’s inebriated antics, and has threatened to turn off the money spigot unless he finds a suitable girl to settle down with. In fact she’s found one for him—a shark-hearted heiress named Susan (Jennifer Garner, cutting loose as a bratty schemer). He is even provided with an ostentatious engagement ring to accompany a marriage proposal. (Taking one look at its weighty diamond he says, “It looks like an ice rink for a mouse.”) Trapped in his luxurious lifestyle, Arthur reluctantly agrees to pop the question.

But then he meets another girl, a lower-class tour guide named Naomi (the soulful-eyed Gerwig), and for the first time in his life, Arthur falls in love. The question now becomes, will Naomi pass muster with Hobson (Helen Mirren in the role that won John Gielgud an Oscar in the original movie). Hobson is Arthur’s onetime nanny, who has stuck around to act as his doting life-guide. And since his real mother is emotionally remote (summoned to her office one day, he says, “I remember you from when I used to live in your womb”), Hobson’s surrogate support has been the one constant in this man-child’s life. Naturally, she is resistant to Naomi at first, but soon melts, and in the manner of rom-coms throughout the ages, the story now plays out as you know it must.

But the movie is agreeably salted with some very witty scenes set up by first-time feature director Jason Winer, and Brand navigates them with considerable comic grace. Pressured into attending an AA meeting to conquer his booze habit, Arthur is shocked to encounter people who’ve actually given up the bottle entirely. Rising from his chair in puzzlement, he tells the sober flock, “I came because I’d like to drink a bit less.” The picture’s not flawless, of course. A scene in the up-market candy store where Arthur gets his first job goes on too long (and too broadly), and a meeting with Susan’s hostile father (Nick Nolte, uncharacteristically awful), which involves a construction-site band saw, makes no sense at all.

But then there are scenes like Arthur and Naomi’s starry-night stroll through Central Park, which has a sweet, glowing charm. And that, I think, despite the chorus of critical opprobrium, is the quality that someone in the right frame of mind might most happily remember after the movie’s over.

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

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  • Paul||

    Brush with greatness: I met "Pat the Door Man" from the original Arthur.

  • T||

    Y'know, I find it difficult to read Kurt Loder without him being introduced by the bass line from Peace Sells.

  • Paul||

    MTV News, the gatekeepers of Democracy Rock the Vote!

  • Ska||

    Glad I'm not the only one.

  • Old Mexican||

    onetime indie queen Greta Gerwig (whose onetime admirers are now bewailing this Hollywood sell-out.)

    I am bewailing her Hollywood sell-IN. The woman is "attractive" enough to play Gustav von Aschenbach's love interest.

    She can't compete with this, though... fortunately.

  • Paul||

    She can't compete with this, though... fortunately.

    Few can.

  • ||

    She can't compete with this


  • Neu Mejican||

    few cans of air brush?

    Not even a good painting.

  • ||

    I liked the first Arthur. It made me want to drink. . .a lot. And to be rich, because it doesn't suck.

  • Cyto||

    And it made us all wonder if he wants some cheese....

  • ||

    I don't have time to read the review right now, but I can tell you that I automatically hate the movie already because Russel Brand and Jennifer Garner are in it. The original was OK; this just looks fucking excruciating. A Batman car? And then when the cops pull him over, he says "what seems to be the problem officers"?!? And this is what they put in the commercial, ostensibly to suck you in?

    It's laughable, but at, not with.

  • ||

    You're probably right, though if I were stinking rich and an alcoholic, I'd probably have my own Batmobile. Among other things.

  • Almanian||

    Exactly - I despise Russell Brand, and insta-hate any movie he's in.


  • ||

    Is he the one who married that chick who sings but is apparently famous solely due to her bosom?

  • Almanian||

    Yeah, Katy Perry. She's cute as hell. Tig ole bitties.

  • SIV||

    Katy Perry's appealing appearance does not offset her excruciatingly grating autotuned vocalizations.

  • Donald Trump||

    I have to say it, you're fired

  • ||


    Fuck that north london cheese dick.

  • ||

    The original was OK? Um no, it was GLORIOUS. And a remake in this PC, frowny culture is impossible (not to mention an insult to the original).

  • ||

    I haven't seen it in forever, but I liked it when I was a kid.

  • Corporate Drone||

    See, THIS is why I preemptively dislike this movie and will not see it: the original was -- and still is -- a great movie. Did Arthur REALLY need to be re-made?

    I used to think that Kurt Loder had good taste.

  • Paul||

    Why you hate on Jennifer Garner? Tell your Uncle Paul all about it.

  • ||

    Because she has a man jaw? That's for starters.

  • ||

    Too skinny, man-jaw, ruined Elektra, Alias was overrated, probably too tall ( feel like they probably always cast her with taller actors), hollow face, fake lips...

  • Donald Trump||

    you're fired.

  • Barack Obama||

    Shut up Donald, you dumb fuck. You'll never find my birth certificate, NEVER!

  • zoltan||

    I liked her in 13 Going on 30, but that's my tiny woman brain talking.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    I automatically hate the movie already because Russel Brand and Jennifer Garner are in it.

    This pretty much sums up my reaction to the ad I saw on TV. More because of Russel Brand than J. Garner.

  • ||

    Russel Brand hopefully stays in Hollywood forever, and never punishes people with his excruciating talk show ever again.

  • rather ||

    4th comment ass, 5th binge drinking, and 9th tits- all that's missing is Steve Smith

  • JOhnny MAckson||

    There's something about your comments that make my filthies go numb. LOL


  • rather ||

    dirty computers are like rusty nails; I prefer not to get tetanus ;-)

  • Rather retarded||

    Holy shit, rather keeps getting pwned by a bot!

  • rather ||

    ...I'd prefer Robert Frost

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think a Bea Arthur biopic is a fine idea in theory, but I can't imagine any way that it would actually be done right.

    While that Brand chick bears a passing resemblance to Arthur, she never wore her hair that long in real life. And I doubt that anyone could really capture her particular way with dismissive sarcasm.

    And that gangly Garner guy looks nothing like Gene Saks.

  • ||

    That's a good question--who could play Bea Arthur?

  • rather ||

    Arnold is available

  • ||

    Not tall enough.

  • ||

    Harvey Fierstein. She was born for him to play that role.

  • rather ||

    he can stand on a crate and the others can kneel-actors are use to it

  • wingnutx||

    Rutger Hauer

  • ||

    Who could play Bea Arthur? Ethel Merman.

  • ||

    Muddled, shitty movie is muddled and shitty.

  • ||

    I think the idea of a lovable alcoholic is almost impossible for people to get their heads around these days.

    Alcoholism is a tragic, serious illness you're supposed to be struggling with or ashamed of or confessional about. The lovable alcoholic is out the window for mass audiences now.

    It just isn't believable unless the alcoholic is miserable. ...not secretly miserable either--really truly miserable.

  • ||

    Like Christopher Hitchens?

  • ||

    george galloway?

  • ||

    Richard Dawson?

  • ||

    Put any of 'em in movie that makes a lovable drunk the center of the story? And, yeah, it'll be a flop.

    For general audiences? You might as well make an action movie where the bad guy gets away, and the good guy doesn't get the girl.

    Actually, I think general audiences would understand that better than a plot centered on a lovable alcoholic.

    They're more likely to understand a white, big-hearted executive in a $2,000 suit than a lovable alcoholic.

  • ||

    Paul Lynde?

  • ||

    Lovable drunk is like going full retard.

  • Adamson||

    "Reason" should stick to politics.

  • ||

    Speaking of lovable drunks...


  • Almanian||

    You know, it really WAS better when Virginia Postrel was around...

    *runs to liquor cabinet*

  • R||

    Is there any movie thread where someone doesn't chime in and say this?

    That could be on a drinking game.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Liked Forgetting Sarah Marshall; didn't really like Get Him to the Greek.

    Maybe I should Netflix the original Arthur, rather than endure Mr. Only-Works-in-Small-Doses in another leading role.

  • Corporate Drone||

    aw shit... I just put Get Him to the Greek in my Netflix queue.


  • ||

    If you have a good sense of humor you will greatly enjoy it.

  • sounds real good||

    It is hysterical. See it. Don't listen to the naysayer.

  • Coeus||

    Ok. Clean shaven is not a good look for Brand. He looks like he's plotting to take Castle Greyskull.

  • ||

    Christ, no kidding. If they ever do a remake of Mask, he's a shoo-in for Rocky Dennis.

  • ||

    Russell Brand is to comedy what Dave Matthews is to music. Awful doesn't even begin to describe him.

  • oncogenesis||


  • Zeb||

    In other words, you don't like him or Dave Mathews. I don't like Dave Mathews either, but come on, they are at least pretty good at what they do.

    I'm on a mission today to fight against people using their own preferences as universal value judgments.

  • The Man||

    14 parenthetical remarks in six paragraphs it too many. It's a movie review for god's sake. This stylistic tic interferes with the appreciation of your otherwise clear prose. If the remarks really have to be made, find a way to incorporate them in simple, linear sentences.

  • ||

    This is probably one of the most idiotic posts I have ever read.

  • Almanian||

    See, The fucking MAN ruins everything.


  • ||

    i think the people who get all bent out of shape because it's a comedic representation of an alcoholic are like the people who got all bent over the stuttering role in fish called wanda. some national association of stutterers or some such protested heavily... with lots of sputtering, it was pretty difficult to figure out what they were saying, but they sounded pissed off

  • Almanian||

    I gotta lol at this a little bit...

  • ||


  • ||


  • Donald Trump||

    Let me tell you, if this movie would have included my son Eric, it would have been the greatest movie ever produced, hands down. He was going to play Arthur's dimwitted step-brother. However, they felt his hapsburg chin may have been a hindrance. Which is fair.

  • Almanian||

    Mr. President Elect, it will be SO kick ass when you finally get into office. God DAMN we'll have prime material for AT LEAST FOUR YEARS!


  • Franklin Harris||

    There was a recent, six-part documentary retrospective about Monty Python, and Russell Brand kept showing up to babble incoherently and be generally not funny. I've never forgiven him for that.

  • Candy Crowley aka Sugar & Milk||

    I think the problem is that Dudley Moore was really goddam talented and funny and lovable. And even he couldn't save Arthur 2. And Brand is creepy, unfunny and inspires instant hatred, so how could a sensible human being risk their time and their dime on his version of an idea already done perfectly and then fucked up?

    Who in hell's name thought of putting Brand in this movie? Its really insane.

    Which reminds me, wouldn't it be awesome if Mr. Bean was run over by a steamroller.

  • Zeb||

    Try this: "I don't like Russell Brand and I don't like Mr Bean."

    (Mr. Bean may get a bit tiresome, but if you want to run Rowan Atkinson over, I shall have to ask you to step outside.)

  • Christian Toto||

    Thank you for summarizing my thoughts in a way I couldn't after reading the initial volley of putrid reviews. I did expect to dislike the film based on my affection for the original and the laugh-free trailers assembled to promote it. But as a rom-com it's certainly superior to most of its peers, and there's a generous streak of humor throughout.

    Funny how the trailers completely avoided the alcohol issue.

  • EC||

    It's funny because I actually read on VoteiQ that the U.S.'s unemployment rate is actually closer to 17%. I don't think that this movie is insulting in any way. It seems more like a pick me up movie in this gloomy economy. I praise Russel Brant's acting. It never seems like he's faking it. Seems like this movie even sneaks in some moral lessons in there.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    Constitutionalists and libertarians drink the blood of liberal children as they sleep. Alcoholism is an issue nobody should ever address, personally or collectively as a society, and we should just avoid discussing it or portraying it ever again, thereby neglecting to even attempt to remedy the issue.

    I'm guessing the hate-it reviews came from "progressives".

  • ||

    Thats actually pretty cool when you think about it.

  • ||

    "Romantic" is not the first word that pops into my head when Russel Brand's name is mentioned. Any sort of intimate scene with him would be spoiled for me because I could never stop thinking if, up close, he smells anything like he looks. I'll pass. Maybe Netflix. Maybe...

  • ||

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The original Arthur was certainly NOT broke.

  • ||

    Are you just saying this to be contrarian, or because you like millionaires?

  • قبلة الوداع||

    thank u

  • aisile||

    ai sile

  • xiingguan||

    This movie has some nike sb skunk dunks for sale of the same flaws I saw in another attempt at a faithful adaptation of a work of fantastic literature long thought unfilmable, Zach Snyder’s 2009 version of Watchmen...That is, it kobe 7 for sale struck me as a series of filmed recreations of scenes from the famous novel


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