Even Dudley Moore realized---all too late---that a second Arthur was a bad idea. So why have Christopher Cross's words not been heeded? (Once in your life you find her...) Beware the hubris of today's besotted British comedian, Russell Brand, who doesn't exactly improve on Moore's playboy billionaire so much as convert the character's tragic immaturity into alcoholic toxicity. Brand, already a Dionysian visual joke of swirling hair and rock-star poses, is always funnier when saying less. Too bad he's got a lot to convey here; he comes off as more of a match to his narcissistic arranged bride, Susan (Jennifer Garner), than must have been intended.
The real casualty of this unwanted remake, though, is New York City (and why do we never see a moon?). The original film, for all its zaniness, existed in a recognizable Koch-era metropolis, one that paradoxically added to our hero's likable haze of denial. This time, the town is far shinier (what recession?): a place where space-case Greta Gerwig can give jaunty tours of Grand Central Terminal and heartbroken lovers can run barefoot through Queens. The truest embodiment of that Manhattan (circa 1981) was John Gielgud's prissy Hobson, a perfect urbanite even for his Englishness. In her second gender-rewritten role in two years, Helen Mirren avoids embarrassment as the butler, but seems like an alien. Who can blame her?
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