The 2011 remake of ‘Arthur’ is rather complex. You can look at it in two distinct ways. You can compare it to the original film, but you can also let it stand on its own and look at its’ individual merits.
So let’s start with a comparison to the 1981 ‘Arthur’, starring Dudley Moore as the title character. The story follows the drunk and debauched Arthur as he tries to find his own way in life. One thing that stands out dramatically is Dudley Moore’s ability to play a drunk. As a viewer, you really believe he may topple over at any moment and his jokes are terrible. Russell Brand’s Arthur seems to be more in control, even when drunk.
The remake involves some sex reversals of the characters. In the 1981 ‘Arthur’, it was his father who forced Arthur into a marriage agreement and the glorious character of Hobson (John Gielgud) was a male butler.
The tentative marriage to Susan is a business proposition at best. The original Susan, (Jill Eikenberry in 1981), was actually in love with Arthur and appeared more simpering and devoted. Jennifer Garner’s Susan is a dramatic contrast, being more aggressive, even heartless.
The main complaint I hear – and feel – is that no one is capable of replacing John Gielgud as Hobson. I do think Helen Mirren did an amazing job considering the shoes she had to fill. However, I also feel she missed the mark slightly. There was an underlying but affectionate sarcasm to Gielgud’s Hobson. While Mirren was able to keep the affection, she came off more snide than sarcastic.
If we divorce the films, the 2011 ‘Arthur’ stands alone, a brilliant movie. The cast works well together and there is an obvious delineation between the good guys and the bad guys. Brand’s manic energy adds to Arthur’s character, but you can see that the jokes are a mask set in place to protect himself from reality. Hobson is the stern but affectionate mother Arthur never had.
I have a feeling a lot of people may not agree with me on this. But I think it is important to let go of the past and one’s expectations from previous films. Enjoy the movie for what it is, on its own merits; on it’s own ability to make you laugh and also to examine your life.
Except – let’s not forget the unique charm offered by the original ‘Arthur’.
But to quote Russell Brand’s ‘Arthur’, “Don’t let that undermine what I just said.”