In 2010's Get Him to the Greek, wiry British funnyman Russell Brand played a spoiled lush whose immature antics threatened his rock-star comeback. In the 2011's Arthur, Brand plays a spoiled lush whose immature antics threaten his billion-dollar inheritance. Greek turned out to be one of last year's underrated comic gems; Arthur, not so much. Why? The two films are wildly different, to be sure, but I submit that the biggest reason for the disparity in quality can be traced to one crucial distinction: Arthur is a remake, and as such carries with it the acknowledged lack of creativity inherent in just about every remake not directed by the Coen Brothers.
And Arthur does what most bad remakes seem to do, dropping what's essential about the original film, keeping what isn't, and wrapping it all up in a glossy, generic, heavily-promoted package. The storyline is essentially unchanged - to retain access to his family's vast fortune, perpetually inebriated playboy Arthur Bach (Brand) is arranged to marry a respectable woman he disdains (Jennifer Garner), but he jeopardizes his inheritance by falling for a girl of humble means (Greta Gerwig). Much of the soul and charm of the original film are gone, however, sacrificed for a succession of canned comic scenarios that probably seemed funny in brainstorming sessions (Russell Brand in a Batman costume? Hilarious!) but are considerably less so when rendered on-screen.
But hey - all the characters' names are the same! And they've all been updated with contrived tweaks that these days passes for invention! Arthur's acerbic English butler, Hobson, is now an acerbic English nanny (Helen Mirren); his African-American chauffer, Bitterman, is now a Puerto Rican-American (Luis Guzman); his betrothed, Susan Johnson (Garner), formerly a dainty debutante, is now a pugnacious, high-powered executive; etc. Brand, for his part, has little hope of measuring up to Dudley Moore, who scored an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the title character in the original. He does get a few choice lines, and he manages to conjure a respectable romantic spark with the luminous Gerwig (trying her best with a character conceived as little more than an assortment of manufactured quirks), but his talents appear severely constrained by a script that can do little more than dress him up in zany outfits and hope for the best.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 1/2 stars.