British comedian Russell Brand is known for his history of debauchery, chronicled in his memoir My Booky Wook. Having parlayed his dissolute persona into roles Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, Brand was a natural choice for a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore hit Arthur, about a drunken libertine who is forced to change his lifestyle to avoid losing his inheritance. Setting aside whether a remake was necessary at all, a surprising level of creativity has gone into this remodel, directed by Jason Winer.
Rather than recasting Hobson, John Gielgud’s acerbic valet, the movie’s Hobson choice is the estimable Helen Mirren as manchild Arthur’s tart but loyal nanny, and the affection between them is touchingly conveyed in Peter Baynham’s script. In another smart departure, the ineffably charming Greta Gerwig (Greenberg) plays the quirky, working-class love interest of Arthur, whose tycoon mother (Geraldine James) is forcing him to marry a rapacious heiress (Jennifer Garner). The screenplay is nimble, with a good deal of Brand’s characteristic verbal wit, so it’s easy to forgive the sappy Hollywood-pop soundtrack, broad physical humor, and the fact that unlike the short and cuddly Dudley, Brand’s angular dishevelment makes him a rather unlikely object of affection.