Everyone knows that 1981’s “Arthur” had three performances that could not be beat, that of Dudley Moore, Liza Minelli, and John Gielgud. So why try? This new Russell Brand version falls short in comparison to its predecessor, but even if it wasn’t a remake, it would still be a pretty tame film. Unfortunately by romantic comedy standards, that still means it’s better than most that have come out recently. Brand is Arthur Bach, the alcoholic heir to a millionaire family forced into marrying a heartless corporate witch (Jennifer Garner) or he will lose his inheritance. Before that can happen though, Arthur finds love in a tour guide/children’s book author named Naomi (Greta Gerwig). His new outlook on love is enough to make his nanny, Hobson (Helen Mirren), think he has changed, but he still has a lot to learn about being independent.
After “Sarah Marshall” and “Get him to the Greek”, Brand seems to be trying to make a career out of playing the same eccentric drunk. He’s good when he gets to be completely absurd and he’s a wonderfully loveable clown, just most of the drunken antics (Arthur dresses up like Batman and a gummy bear) aren’t that funny and Peter Baynham’s wittier jokes (“You love horses. I don’t trust them. Their shoes are permanent. Who makes that kind of commitment to a shoe?”) are few and far between the throwaways (“Did they really go with another reference to Holyfield getting his ear bitten off?”). Mirren proves she’s a pro at one-liners (also love that she got into a Darth Vader helmet) but the bond between her and Arthur never feels that strong and Gerwig is misused, watering the street-smart Minnelli character down to an equally child-like soul mate for Arthur. Arthur is nothing terrible, more sweet and forgettable, but at almost two hours, it all feels overlong.