Back in 1981 Dudley Moore won an Oscar nod for Arthur. It’s safe to say, Russell Brand will not.
His tiresome re-tread has been savaged by US critics amid suggestions that his leading man days could be abruptly over.
“But who could be anything other than charmed by this loveable individual?” Brand peeps within the first reel of a film that demands a sizable portion of goodwill from audiences.
But while there’s certainly a load of cash and try-hard in evidence, charm is in short supply.
Brand plays the titular tippler, a trustafarian man-child whose sleazy partying results in his mother (Geraldine James) forcing him to marry a bitchy businesswoman (Jennifer Garner) to restore the family’s credibility.
Two women get in the way of that plan: Arthur’s nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) and Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a love interest lifted from the ‘quirky girl’ section of the rom-com cliché book (dresses like a five-year-old, likes cartoons). Nick Nolte’s in it too – though neither he, nor we, know why.
While Moore’s boozehound was a lost man reduced to infantilism by alcoholism, Brand’s Arthur is a regressive tool who’s told to “wash his winkie” and is less a guileless lush than a self-styled rain man. “He’s like a ship without an anchor,” tuts his mother, and the same could be said for Brand’s essaying.
Stuck with a chortle-free script, flaccid direction and a family certificate, his Get Him To The Greek verve is AWOL and he flounders with a grating helium baby-voice, ringlets like a spaniel and the dazed expression of one who doesn’t quite know how he ended up in this picture. Where is this charm of which you speak?
That’ll be Mirren. Making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, the dame spirits up sweet/cheeky chemistry with Brand (elevating his performance in shared scenes), almost carries off clunking one-liners and seems to be the only character operating under any kind of logic.
Love Brand? Then you’ll forgive his absent performance within a mediocre rom-com. Hate him? Arthur is an endurance – like being the only sober person among pissed people.