‘Arthur’ - funny, but let down on original

May 14th, 2011 - 8:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh Bachchan Film: “Arthur”; Cast: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner; Director: Jason Winer, Rating: ***

Love in the times of the cholera called prosperity and globalisation is often seen as a childish thing. “Arthur”, the remake of an eponymous 1980s classic, which was also remade into the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Bollywood hit “Sharabi”, is a take on love versus money. The film, despite its failings, manages to keep its head off the ground.

Arthur (Russell Brand) may be 30 in body, but the rich, spoilt son of a businesswoman mother is but a child who has turned drunkard due to the absence of motherly love. Though he is outwardly wayward, he harbours a heart of gold and the only one who can see this is his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren). When Arthur finally falls in love with a simple girl, he cannot find completion to his love as he is supposed to marry Susan (Jennifer Garner) or stand to lose his inheritance.

The new “Arthur” maintains the sanctity of the original to a decent extent. The gags, wit and humour have been aptly replaced to match the times, without much change to the story. The main change occurs in the character of the nanny Hobson, who is now a woman, making a literal replacement of mother as compared to the original’s more subtle approach and a fantastic Oscar-winning performance by John Gielgud.

The film loses as far as its direction is concerned. Debutant director Jason Winer, who has previously helmed only TV, is incapable of handling key moments and emotions that gave the original much of its poignancy. Hence, the character of Arthur’s girlfriend has been reduced considerably, and her father’s story is completely lost.

Also, the film, while lingering on its funny bits, rushes past its emotions that gave perspective to the humour and Arthur in the original.

The writer-director duo also fail to realise that the film is not about a drunkard, wayward man coming to terms with his problem, but of a man owning up to what he truly is deep inside. It was a statement that veered towards love in its perennial conflict with economics. Thankfully, because the story has largely been left untouched, this essence of the original comes out, though a lot muddy.

Russell Brand gets the chance of his life as the drunkard lead. And though he is ‘cute’ in the modern sense, he cannot recreate the feel of a vulnerable drunkard that Dudley Moore did in the original with such humorous aplomb. Jennifer Garner and Nick Nolte are good in their short roles and Helen Mirren steals the show by her take as a stern but lovable nanny — but she falls short of reaching John Gielgud’s brilliance in the original.

As remakes go, this one is not bad, yet purist and movie buffs will cry foul at the tampering of the double Oscar-winning original. Yet, if you haven’t seen the original, this might just be your ride to the madness of Arthur.

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