Aremake currently playing in Whitehorse that is in some respects actually an improvement on the original is Arthur.
The 1981 version, which starred Dudley Moore in the title role, earned Shakespearian actor Sir John Gielgud an Academy Award for his memorable role as Hobson, Arthur Bach’s manservant-protector.
The current version of this comedy is reasonably faithful to its first incarnation. It stars British actor Russell Brand as Arthur, the son of a wealthy family who is idle, usually drunk, and totally irresponsible.
The heir to a multibillion-dollar industrial empire, Arthur is threatened with disinheritance and the loss of $950 million if he does not marry Susan Jackson, an unspectacular but attractive socialite played by Jennifer Garner.
Susan is the choice of Arthur’s mother Vivian, who is tired of her son’s outrageous behaviour in public. The problem for Arthur is that he simply doesn’t love her and isn’t ready for marriage.
In the current version, the role of Hobson has been transformed into that of a nanny, played by Helen Mirren.
Arthur has been in Hobson’s care practically since birth, and she still looks after him as a grown man. She attends to his daily needs, tries to keep him from embarrassing himself socially, and attempts to curb his drinking – usually a losing battle.
Like Gielgud before her, Mirren has a remarkable command of dry British wit and sarcasm, and uses it to remarkable effect with the sodden billionaire.
When Arthur rescues a pretty young blonde, Naomi Quinn, from being arrested for conducting unauthorized tours of New York’s Grand Central Station, he quickly becomes smitten and digs in his heels all the more firmly against the proposed marriage to Susan.
As Naomi, relative newcomer Greta Gerwig has more chemistry with Arthur than Liza Minnelli did with Moore in the original. Brand is a more likable Arthur, with a waifish naivete, and Gerwig is sweeter and more sincere than Minnelli.
When she first appears on the scene, the ever-vigilant Hobson dismisses Naomi as just another gold digger after Arthur’s fortune, but she gradually warms to her and comes to support Arthur’s opposition to the match his mother is trying to foist on him.
There are some good moments in Arthur, and it’s certainly a refreshing change from the usual gore, violence and cartoon inanity.
There are areas for improvement, however; the updated touch of Arthur tooling around town in a jet-propelled Batmobile instead of a Rolls Royce, for example, is a bit over the top.
There’s also a tendency to over-caricaturize some of the cast, such as the grasping Susan’s sadistic and loutish nouveau-riche father (played by Nick Nolte), who heads his own construction empire.
Still, it’s easy to be won over by Gerwig’s lovable character, and the fact that she refuses to be swayed by Arthur’s drunken displays of wealth, but loves him for himself.
When Arthur tries to make inroads into the real world, attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and trying to get a job, the results are ludicrously comic. They serve to confirm the old adage that, while the poor are frequently labelled crazy, the rich are considered eccentric.
Arthur isn’t perfect, but it’s a reasonably entertaining night out, and for that we can all be grateful.
Arthur plays at 7:00 and 9:15 pm at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated PG for coarse language and violence.