Some might say this is heresy, remaking the 1981 Dudley Moore smash hit. Has Hollywood finally run out of ideas?
In a year of remakes, re-imaginings, sequels and prequels the question has been asked and answered.
Here we have a re-imagining with Gielgud’s Oscar winning role of “Hobson” the butler, transformed into Helen Mirren as nanny, lady butler and companion to the spectacularly spoilt, permanently drunk and now, allowing for inflation, even richer billionaire “Arthur” (Russell Brand).
Arthur is the son of an emotionally crippled mother who rules the business empire with an iron fist, an eye to the future and less emotion than a block of butter. Obviously Arthur has responded by never growing up, indulging his every whim from the bottom of a bottle, albeit retaining “a good heart”.
Brand is not to everyone’s taste but the role fits quite well, certainly he will have plenty of life experience to guide his self indulgent lifestyle and the public will be well aware of his “previous” life and struggle with alcohol.
There are many funny lines and you may find yourself enjoying the film far more than you had expected.
When attempting to find a office job Arthur is asked “Outlook?”, “mostly positive” is the reply.
Helen Mirren provides the film’s emotional core and anchors the whole enterprise in some form of reality. The relationship between Arthur and Hobson as a surrogate mother, actually transcends the rest of the film, mainly due to Mirren’s performance but this appears to bring the best out of Brand.
The unsuitable love interest, illegal tour guide “Naomi” (Gerwig), as opposed to Liza Minnelli’s shoplifter in 1981, is rather bland. The more suitable and business synergy enhancing partner, “Susan” (Jennifer Garner) is more interesting from a character point of view.
Geraldine James, Nick Nolte and Luis Guzman do well with relatively small roles and act as the straight man/woman to Brands stick, which here generally does not outstay it’s welcome. Brand managing to be more likeable than usual, not lovable perhaps but at least not so actively disliked we want him closer to the rather disturbing circular saw, in one rather odd scene with Nolte. Some kudos to Brand for taking on a role, that almost invites comparison and criticism.
The story follows a similar arc to the 1982 original and largely sidesteps the obvious pitfall of presenting a self indulgent playboy billionaire who does no work and still appears unhappy. At a time when many audience members are not making rent, this is no easy task. Does he find true love and get to keep the money despite the choices he makes, if you can stay around long enough you will find out.
Is it art, no of course not and the project does not appear to even attempt to improve or really emulate the original. One might consider this a cynical recycling of a good story to audiences who would never even know who Dudley Moore was, let alone see the original.
With a take of @ $45m on a budget of $40m it is obvious that the films timing, post economic meltdown and continued financial worries coupled with the general view that this should have been left alone, has hurt the film at the ticket booth.
Funnier, sweeter and more enjoyable than you might expect.
Certainly not perfect but a very enjoyable slice of light entertainment again proving how valuable Mirren is to any cast list.