In ARTHUR, a comedic and loveable but ultimately alcoholic playboy billionaire is forced to re-examine his life after being faced with a decision to either marry for money or marry for love. Although portraying a dysfunctional mother-son relationship and other inappropriate content, in the end the title character chooses having love, integrity and respect over wealth and is redeemed, so to speak, via a tough-loving nanny, his driver, Alcoholics Anonymous, and a girl from Queens.
A remake of the 1981 classic starring Dudley Moore, ARTHUR doesn’t quite live up to its expectations. Although definitely full of funny moments, it falls flat in many ways due to lack of excellent acting and lack of a pointedly redemptive story line. The sets, costumes and props are all extravagant but the story isn’t as well told as it was in the original film and it is much more crass in its depiction of Arthur’s debauched lifestyle.
The movie begins with Arthur Buck (played by Russell Brand), heir to a vast fortune, once again embarrassing his mother and the shareholder’s of his family’s company by wrecking a Batmobile on Wall Street in New York City. His father died suddenly when he was three and his mother, Vivienne, is sick and tired of Arthur’s childish antics and gross expenditure of the family’s money. So, Vivienne gives Arthur an ultimatum: he can either marry savvy businesswoman and “new-money” up-and-comer Susan Johnson (played by Jennifer Garner), or he can lose his entire inheritance and fortune. Arthur reluctantly accepts this agreement, only after attempting to negotiate every way possible to not become engaged to Susan because he does not love her and believes in eventually finding his “true love.”
Resentful because of the choice forced upon him by his indifferent mother, Arthur decides to waste more of the family’s money by going to an auction house and bidding outrageous amounts of money for a spoon and a suit that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. After this event, he wanders into Grand Central Station, where he accidentally runs into Naomi Quinn, an unlicensed tour guide and aspiring children’s book author from Queens. Naomi is questioned by the police, who have apparently warned her about not having a license before, but Arthur distracts the police officers with a fake story about them being engaged and describes how they had a perfect first date there at Grand Central Station so that Naomi can make an escape. The escape fails but Arthur ultimately comes to the rescue and talks his way out of the situation, saving her from going to jail.
At this point, Arthur asks Naomi out on a date, but before she can reply, his life-long nanny and essentially surrogate mother, Hobson, arrives with his chauffeur and Rolls Royce. Upon seeing Hobson and being reassured that Arthur isn’t just some crazy person off the street, Naomi gives Arthur her number.
Meanwhile, Arthur is being forced to ask Susan’s father for his permission to marry his daughter. Arthur openly discusses with various people at this point how he thinks this marriage is a terrible idea because he doesn’t love her. Upon meeting Susan’s father at a construction site, Arthur accidentally shoots him with a nail gun in the arm and shoulder. The father then threatens Arthur by forcing his face down on a table-saw but only the tip of Arthur’s tongue is injured.
Arthur then realizes that Susan’s father built his office in direct view of Arthur’s house and bedroom and has been spying on him. He reinforces the idea that the marriage is a business arrangement and that Susan will be able to reform Arthur’s childish antics, drunken debauchery and playboy lifestyle – at least in the public’s eye. Arthur is then forced to propose to Susan, who coerces him into giving her the engagement ring with threats of physical harm and a life of poverty.
After the engagement, Arthur is very depressed and goes to call Naomi, but Hobson has deleted her number from his phone. Due to this, he returns to Grand Central Station to look for her. He runs into her again, and Naomi reprimands him for not calling her. Apologizing, he asks her out on a real date and transforms Grand Central Station into an exact replica of the first date he had previously told the police officers about during their first meeting.
The couple shares personal stories and discover they both have lost one parent. Arthur and Naomi form a bond. He also discovers her rough draft of a children’s book and encourages her to finish writing it.
Arthur is forced to do an engagement photo session with the Johnson family. He has to face his fear of horses and the wrath of his fiancé, Susan, who has learned of Arthur’s interest in Naomi. Susan explains she wants to marry Arthur because she wants people to respect her. She believes that, by running the Buck family trust and gaining access to the family’s money, she can accomplish this. Arthur confesses he doesn’t love her, but Susan still doesn’t care.
Arthur then invites Naomi over to his home for a date, but is surprised to see Susan arrive as well. Susan, very drunk after two bottles of wine, attempts to seduce him and begins stripping off her clothing. Naomi is with Hobson in the other room, and Hobson, who is aware of what’s happening, distracts Naomi but inadvertently begins to become friends with her.
The crisis is adverted but Arthur shows up to Naomi’s house drunk and explains that he is engaged and how he is trapped because of the money. Enraged, Naomi tells Arthur she never wants to see him again. He tries to give her money as an apology, but that makes things worse, and Naomi adamantly refuses.
At Hobson’s insisting, Arthur recognizes he has an alcohol problem. She takes him to Alcoholic’s Anonymous, but he doesn’t take it seriously. At this point, Hobson stands up and gives Arthur’s “Testimony” for him – silencing the room. Arthur leaves, mostly unmoved.
[SPOILER ALERTS Hobson, feeling left out as Susan tries to replace her and seeing how devastated Arthur is by this situation, tries to speak to Vivienne, but is quickly dismissed as “only” a servant. Hobson then goes and visits Naomi, but becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital. Arthur arrives at the hospital and begins to reconcile with Naomi, but then offers her a position as his mistress so that he can still marry Susan and have access to his family’s money. Naomi becomes upset at this, but then reveals that her children’s book has been sold and will be published. At that moment, Susan arrives and tells Naomi that Arthur was the one responsible for the publishing company buying her book. Naomi becomes even more upset at the fact that she didn’t succeed on her own and leaves Arthur at the hospital.
[SPOILER ALERTS] Then, as Hobson’s health rapidly declines, Arthur does his best to become her “nanny” and take care of her in the same fashion that she took care of him for his entire life. Meanwhile, Susan is preparing for the wedding, and Arthur tries to forget Naomi. Will he change his mind again when he has to face the death of his caretaker and friend?
As Arthur, Russell Brand has moments that are truly funny and comical, but has so much inappropriate language and behavior mixed with the dialogue and content that it becomes almost impossible to separate the good from the bad. He lacks the charm and sophistication Dudley Moore brought to the role. There is also such a large focus on alcohol and the idea that it is Arthur’s drinking – not his lack of moral values in general – that’s ruined his life that it takes away from the subplot of him and Hobson’s motherly character and the devastation that her death means. Helen Mirren’s Hobson is also crass and shows the same kind of inappropriate behavior and language Arthur himself displays. She is not a good moral role model but does “believe” in Arthur to make the right decisions. In the movie, she sees that underneath his outrageous exterior is a boy who has been rejected by his mother and who has no father and so tries to supplement his life with money and “fun.” All in all, it’s a very “carpe diem” moral code that’s given in its true meaning of “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.” In the end, there seems to be a large story gap as, suddenly, Arthur finally begins to change.
ARTHUR lacks spiritual redemption, but it does portray some moral redemption and a positive message against alcohol and dysfunctional family relationships. It shows that, without love, we have nothing. However, extreme caution is justified for ARTHUR’s mixed content and worldview elements (please see our CONTENT section above for more details). Most viewers probably will prefer the earlier version of this madcap tale.
(C, B, PaPa, Ro, Ab, L, V, S, N, AA, DD, MM) Light Christian or redemptive, moral worldview about overcoming excess and alcoholism, marred by strong pagan and light Romantic elements, plus when man is accidentally hit by nail gun, the title character jokes, “Nails made a hero out of Jesus so you could go with that"; two obscenities, no profanities and some comical vulgarities like “winky”; some comical violence with minor bleeding includes title character accidentally shoots another character with a nail gun, riot started, title character almost has his tongue sawed off by future father-in-law; light sexual content includes seduction scene with allusion to sex but man shuns woman in lingerie’s advances, kissing and references to a sex video; partial nudity as title character is seen running in nothing but his underwear at one point and upper male nudity and woman in lingerie in seduction scene; strong alcohol use as title character portrays an alcoholic who, however, eventually goes to AA and becomes sober; no smoking but a comical drug references when recovering alcoholic mentions to some schoolchildren about his “candy addiction” and some of the children ask him if it was meth, crack or booze; and, dysfunctional family portrayed as main character’s father is deceased and mother values money over her son, son shows no respect, son is raised by the “hired help,” and a dying character says they’ll probably end up looking up from Hell at another character instead of looking down on him from Heaven.
ARTHUR shows the extravagant life of Arthur, a hilarious but alcoholic billionaire. Arthur embarrasses his mother by his lewd behavior. She forces him to make a life-changing decision: he can either marry the wealthy, neurotic Susan Johnson and keep his inheritance, or he can marry for love and lose his money. At first, Arthur chooses money over love, but then he meets Naomi from Queens. Arthur falls in love with Naomi and immediately regrets his earlier decision. His nanny, who is his mother in every way but biologically, tries to help Arthur mend his ways. Then, tragedy strikes. This leads Arthur down a dark but hopeful path of recovery, responsibility and redemption.
ARTHUR’s production quality is excellent, with much attention to detail. From an entertainment perspective, Russell Brand’s ridiculous sense of humor as Arthur hits a few high notes that are truly funny, but there are too many crass moments. ARTHUR lacks spiritual redemption, but it does portray some moral redemption and a positive message against alcohol and dysfunctional family relationships. It shows that, without love, we have nothing. However, extreme caution is warranted for ARTHUR’s mixed content.