Arthur (Warner Brothers, PG-13)

For every ‘falling down the stairs in a gummy bear costume’ moment there are about six more where you just want Arthur to be all right.

 

 

Even if the world were filled with lushes, it’s possible that none would be more loveable than Arthur (Russell Brand). He’s a quirky, quick-witted party animal who’s also trusting and generous to a fault; and when you’re worth almost a billion dollars, generosity can go a long way.

When Arthur fails to show up to an important event for his mother’s company, she decides it’s time for him to finally grow up, stop his partying, and stop scaring her investors. The deal? Either Arthur marries his mom’s second in command, Susan (Jennifer Garner), or she cuts him off from his inheritance. He grudgingly accepts her terms, but a chance meeting with Naomi (Greta Gerwig), another quirky soul, soon makes him rethink the offer.

Those who are considering Arthur for their weekend entertainment should be forewarned: this movie isn’t quite the laugh-a-minute romp promised in the trailer. For every ‘falling down the stairs in a gummy bear costume’ moment there are about six more where you just want Arthur to be all right.

 The only way to make us care about someone this rich and unencumbered is to have Arthur be so nice that we can’t imagine disliking the man, boozing and whoring be damned. Sure enough, when you watch him post bail for an entire jailhouse or make it rain money at a corner store ATM, you can’t dream that another billionaire would do the same.

 Arthur also successfully gives us a main character who is friend to all but only has his nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) and driver Bitterman (Luis Guzmán) on his side. Yet it’s impossible to feel sorry for him, despite his nearly friendless existence, which is also filled with the knowledge of his mother’s contempt for him. See, Arthur may not work, but he does have a purpose: to have fun and make sure the people around him can have fun, too.

 The crux of Arthur is, as it should be, Brand’s performance. He’s good with the slapstickiness of it, but never lets his Arthur veer into drunken fool territory. Arthur here is more of a functioning alcoholic with a heart of gold; and we can always see just a bit of the pain that led him to where he is. | Adrienne Jones

 

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