In this rethink of the 1981 screwball throwback, the titular drunken heir, originally played by lovable lump Dudley Moore, has been rebuilt to suit slinky British sleaze-comedian Russell Brand, whose constant nattering rarely transcends throat-clearing improv. The film apparently takes place in the present day (cue recession reference), although no one seems to have heard of those common contemporary safety nets for the idle rich, the Internet, or reality TV. Still supposedly a debauchee, Brand’s Arthur cruises Manhattan in too-tight schoolboy suits and fawns over Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a wide-eyed tour guide who wears rompers and longs to write books for kids, while John Gielgud and Geraldine Fitzgerald’s parental surrogates have been conflated into a single nanny (Helen Mirren), still hanging around the thirtysomething Arthur’s nursery. Where Moore’s Arthur found his establishment-defying soulmate in wacky poor girl Liza Minnelli, the new film attempts to romanticize Arthur and Naomi’s shared childlike naïveté and chaste affection; the billionaire’s business-minded arranged bride, on the other hand, is sexually aggressive to the point of debasing the actress who plays her (Jennifer Garner). Maybe the 1981 film isn’t exactly a sacred cow, but from the temperance subplot that replaces the original’s unrepentant celebration of Arthur’s obliteration to the shitty up-tempo cover of Christopher Cross’s karaoke classic “Arthur’s Theme,” this remake seems to exist only to zap the original of its minor pleasures.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2011