Home Movies “Arthur” Remake: Box Office Disaster Looms

The remake of “Arthur,” a genial film from the 1980s that had charm brimming over, is headed for disaster. I haven’t been able to see it yet (my fault), but of the 14 reviews posted to RottenTomatoes.com so far, only one has been positive. The other 13 are so bad that “Arthur” is getting a 7% so far. The consensus is that director Jason Winer didn’t know what he was doing, and captured none of the spirit of the original. It sounds like the recent remake of “The Heartbreak Kid.” Whoops!

“Arthur” opens on Friday. The original, directed by the late Steve Gordon some 30 years ago, was a winner. Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, and Jill Eikenberry were the principal cast–a rich kid, the girl he loved, the girl he was supposed to marry, and his butler. They’re now played by Russell Brand, Greta Gerwig, Helen Mirren, and Jennifer Garner. On paper it sounds grand. But the director, Jason Winer, comes from very clunky TV like “Modern Family” (which to me seems like “Arrested Development” lite) .

This is just a guess, but Dudley Moore was winsome and subtle. He was also small in size, which made him seem vulnerable. Russell Brand, whom I like a lot, is a big guy who doesn’t seem like he need to be taken care of. He is also quite obvious and a little aggressive. A better choice would have been James McEvoy or even Ewan MacGregor. Anyway, what’s done is done. At least we can hope Helen Mirren got a good payday out of it.

Comedy remakes–especially of material that is trickier than it appears–are tough. That “Heartbreak Kid” with Ben Stiller was so bad the people who made it should have arrested. Classics are often a part of their time–and in these cases, even more so. What these two –“HK” and “Arthur” — had in common were they were comedies of manners, and spoofed class warfare. No one seems to know how to do that anymore. I think writers and directors are afraid to suggest that class differences exist anymore. They’re all too politically correct.

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6 replies to this post
  1. Russell is awesome!! Who the hell do u people think u are saying all negative stuff?? He can make any role work. I never liked the original Arthur and when I saw this one I loved it. And I’m 28. So my opinion counts. Not yours you old people!

  2. Arthur remains one of my favourite comedies. Dudley was perfect as Arthur and, as corny as the scenes might seem today, they still crack me (“walk this way”, “but that would only leave you with one”! – Arthur fans will know what I’m talking about!). When I first heard of the remake, I thought casting Helen Mirren as the butler was inspired – who else could live up to Sir John’s performance? – and would be the only reason I would watch it.

  3. And there is no “Arthur’s Theme” to help promote this new version. Perhaps. they should have gone back to Randy Newman, who was the first composer offered to write the music for the original film. I had used Newman’s “It’s Money That I Love” in the rough cut, but Newman turned the movie down, so his song was replaced with the Burt Bacharach-Christopher Cross’s Academy Award-winning song, “The Best that You Can Do,” also known as “Arthur’s Theme,” which was written especially for the movie. (I was the music supervisor on the original “Arthur,” btw.)

  4. Gotta say, one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. The original was perfect in its way, with great perfs from Moore and Gielgud.

    Man, does this look like a stinker!

  5. I love Russell Brand, but agree with Roger – he’s too full of life to play a beaten down guy in the sweet vulnerable way that Dudley Moore did. I’ve seen the previews and they made me cringe as someone who loved the original “Arthur” and will watch it any time it’s showing on T.V. Way too busy and over-the-top. Shame, especially for Russell Brand. Hopefully someone will find a way to use him to brilliance (as in “Forgetting about Sarah Marshall)….a funny, outrageous bad boy who is ultimately sweet and lovely to people. I received “Get Him to the Greek” as a present and watched it with my two early 20s nephews and we unanimously agreed to turn it off after about 23 1/2 minutes – awful.

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