Director: Jason Winer
Cast: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner
Watch Arthur online in the UK: Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Google Play
When Arthur first came out, it was easy to dislike Russell Brand. He’s loud, brash, ridiculously hairy – in other words, the perfect choice to play a selfish drunken playboy. Even if it is a selfish drunken playboy previously played by Dudley Moore. Russell does a very good job, making Arthur someone you wouldn’t expect to like. The annoying thing? It’s very hard not to.
Arthur (Brand) is a man-child with an immature streak as big as his wallet. Living in a penthouse with a floating bed made of magnets, he gets bored of his possessions in an instant. The pet giraffe he once had? Gone. Why? Because it ate its monacle.
The thankless task of looking after the boy falls to loyal nanny Hobson (Mirren). A feisty old woman, she tidies up his mess with a chequebook in one hand and a boxing glove on the other. Then one day, along comes Arthur’s mum with an ultimatum: marry workaholic heiress Susan (Garner) or lose the family fortune.
It’s not an easy dilemma to sympathise with. Forced into a loveless marriage with an attractive woman because he’s too afraid of losing money, Arthur’s plight is hardly a horrible one. Especially given that the poverty route would let him shack up with cute tour guide Naomi (Gerwig). But somehow, Arthur does get its emotional hook into you – and that’s mostly thanks to the cast.
Loveable is perhaps a strong word for Arthur, but funny certainly fits the bill. Handed a witty script by Alan Partridge and The Day Today writer Peter Baynham, Brand fires off asides at a stonkingly impressive speed for the first hour. Then things take an inevitable lull. Trying to explore an essentially simple character, Jason Winer gets in a muddle over which lesson Arthur is learning. Is he a man with a dependence on money or alcohol? And do we really need unsubtle scenes in AA meetings to get that point across?
Fortunately, Helen Mirren is on hand to provide some pithy put-downs and predictable pathos. Mirren’s double act with Brand has a nice spark to it, but the real chemistry is created by the adorable Greta Gerwig. She’s as loveable here as she was in Greenberg. She even gets to wear a hat.
When the laughs dry up, it’s their surprisingly engaging romance that keeps things enjoyable. That and Russell Brand’s hyperactive delivery. Even if you once hated him, you’ll find it hard to resist Arthur’s manic charm.