It must have been a fine time, back in the early 80s, when Ronald Reagan was only just embarking on his diabolical plan to kill the American middle class: we could still find carefree, spoiled-rotten billionaires kooky and captivating. And it must have been a fine time, too, when men were still men and not little boys, and it was assumed to be hilarious to watch a grown man act like a child. Whatever charms Dudley Moore’s Arthur may or may not have had 30 years ago are entirely absent in this pointless — and frequently downright distasteful — remake, which could not have come along at a worse time: Great Recession? What Great Recession? Whatever charms Russell Brand (Hop) may have — your mileage may vary: I find him an ingratiating character actor, but he’s no romantic leading man — are lost in a tediously predictable “comedy” about a playboy heir to a corporate fortune who will lose his near-billion-bucks if he doesn’t settle down and marry a robber-baron gal (Jennifer Garner: Valentine’s Day) who will instill confidence in the shareholders. And again, we should care because…? No reason is forthcoming. Instead, we have the spectre of Helen Mirren (Red) woefully abused as Arthur’s nanny — a nanny! for a nearly 40-year-old man! — who is required to tell him to “wash his winkie.” Ugh. Only the delightful Greta Gerwig escapes unscathed here, as the poor but kind children’s book writer Arthur unexpectedly discovers he prefers, and only because you can’t help but wish a better film on her. There is a subversively funny movie to be found in a story about a useless billionaire these days, and I might have expected it from a screenwriter like Peter Baynham, who contributed to the brutally funny and pointed Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Bruno. Maybe he’ll write it someday soon.
Watch Arthur online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.