‘Arthur’: A muddle-headed remake of a classic screen comedy

Laura Donovan Contributor
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It’s still an open question whether in this day of increased concerns about alcoholism and health you can do a remake of 1981’s Arthur, a comedy about a loveable drunk, because the new Arthur, with Russell Brand playing the Dudley Moore role, is a mere burlesque riffing off the old Arthur rather than an actual remake that has reconceived or rethought the original film.

The story hasn’t changed much, nor have the characters. But the comedy is now crude instead of whimsical and its characters overblown caricatures instead of screwball personalities. A movie has been reduced to a sketch.

One’s enjoyment of Arthur– and its box office chances — may depend on a new audience having little if any knowledge of the earlier work. As a Russell Brand Show, fans and followers may enjoy his extravagant mugging and nuttiness. Those with any memory of 1981’s Arthurwill be severely disappointed.

That movie — let’s call it OldArthur — came out of nowhere. TV veteran Steve Gordon created an ineffable, charming comedy that defied movie traditions even of that time. Comic intoxication was usually reserved for the Animal House kind of comedies, and rich guys were seldom heroes. Gordon insisted that his incredibly rich and drunk protagonist was a gentle soul, looking for love but willing to accept a night of fun if that didn’t pan out.

[WATCH: Trailer for “Arthur”]


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