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Irresponsible charmer Arthur Bach faces his biggest challenge -- choosing between an arranged marriage or an uncertain future with the only woman he has ever loved.
For more about Arthur and the Arthur Blu-ray release, see Arthur Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 4, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Geraldine James, Luis Guzmán
Director: Jason Winer
» See full cast & crew
Arthur Blu-ray Review
Not as forgettable as I thought it'd be, not as memorable as it could have been...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 4, 2011
This could be the only positive review of Arthur you read. I should know; I read a number of scathing reviews when deciding whether or not to catch director Jason Winer's remake of filmmaker Steve Gordon's 1981 comedy classic of the same name when it arrived in theaters earlier this year. Most critics took aim at leading man Russell Brand, the wiry British comedian stepping into the sloshy shoes of the late Dudley Moore's titular playboy. The general consensus seemed to be that Brand, while amusing in supporting roles, simply doesn't have the chops, charm or charisma to anchor an entire film. Others complained that Winer's remake doesn't hold a candle to the original, that it goes nowhere fast, that it's hindered by an inconsistent tone and a faulty script, and that it never lives up to its potential or delivers on its promises. Sentiments I'm sure will be echoed in other reviews of Arthur's Blu-ray release. But you won't find many of those sentiments here. Comedy, more than any other genre, is a subjective experience, so you'll have to forgive me if any of this sounds like a preemptive apology. It isn't. Arthur is a critically panned box office flop; a critically panned box office flop I just so happen to have enjoyed quite a bit. I'm not blind to its flaws, mind you. I'm sure many viewers will find it to be as sluggish as the majority of critics. But I found it to be a sweetly disarming, inexplicably endearing genre pic with just enough heart to appeal to my sensibilities. And here I was expecting to hate it along with everyone else.
Ludicrously wealthy manchild, womanizer and booze hound Arthur Bach (Russell Brand, Get Him to the Greek) is heir to his family's fortune and corporation, Bach Worldwide. But one too many drunken escapades lands Arthur in the hot seat with his mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James, Sherlock Holmes), and leads to an ultimatum. Arthur either has to marry Vivienne's business savvy assistant, Susan (Jennifer Garner, Valentine's Day), or forfeit his billion-dollar inheritance and give up every cent at his disposal. He reluctantly chooses marriage -- even though Susan repulses him on every level -- and begins drinking away his sorrows as the icy bride-to-be prepares for her dream wedding. Arthur's lifelong nanny and confidant, Hobson (Helen Mirren, Red), tries to keep him in line, but a chance encounter with a quirky tour guide named Naomi (Greta Gerwig, Greenberg) changes things. Arthur finds love and happiness with Naomi, however tricky their relationship proves to be, leaving him with an even more difficult choice than he had before.
The times they are a-changin', and Arthur's debauchery and drunken romps feel distinctly different in 2011 than they did in 1981 and 1988, when Moore was cavorting as Gordon's oblivious lush. A double dose of pointed social consciousness alters the dynamic of Winer's remake -- sometimes dramatically so -- and much of the film's quote-unquote tonal inconsistencies stem from Winer and screenwriter Peter Baynham's rather transparent tightrope walking. Arthur is as irresponsible and reprehensible as he ever was, but his cartoonish, 21st century indiscretions come with near-constant reminders that Arthur is a victim; a victim of his mother's neglect, his father's death, and his laughably unlimited access to cash and resources. And, truth be told, none of it is very believable. Police chuckle and let his hijinks slide, strangers merely gawk at the gangly Brit funnyman, and store owners and restaurant managers endure the shame of it all as if they don't have the authority to toss him out on the street. Thankfully, Brand strikes a pleasant balance between Arthur's bleary-eyed antics and his warm gooey center, making it rather easy to believe a prim and proper hired hand like Hobson and a free-spirited sweetheart like Naomi could care about him so deeply. (It even makes it a bit easier to suspend disbelief, shrug your shoulders and smile along with the bemused police officers who, for whatever reason, are willing to look the other way when he stirs up trouble.) Through it all, it's Winer's whip-smart cast, not Baynham's script, that helps Arthur find its footing each and every time it begins to stumble.
Arthur isn't exactly fast on its feet either. Brand's improvisational skills certainly keep things light, but anyone expecting a string of laugh-out-loud encounters or a gut-busting gag-per-minute ratio will be sorely disappointed. Winer and his cast rarely go for the jugular and, to be fair, it isn't Brand's strong suit anyway. Garner is as obnoxious as the film's theatrical trailers suggest, but then again, she's meant to be; Luis Guzman is fine as Arthur's chauffeur and only friend, but he's wasted in a role any schlubby character actor could have filled; Nick Nolte and other notable names earn their keep, but aren't given much to do other than react to whatever Brand conjures up. The result? The jokes that come are rather unreliable on the whole, even though, by and large, they're refreshingly gentle and lighthearted. But while it might initially feel as if the comedy is simply falling flat, the breeziness of it all allows it to unspool at a pleasant, leisurely pace. In fact, the scenes that are meant to leave audiences in stitches are often the most forced, and the scenes that are meant to endear audiences to Arthur are actually the funniest and most enjoyable. Brand's chemistry with Miren and Gerwig is terrific, and the quieter moments between Arthur and the two loves of his life really resonate; so much so that other scenes limp along by comparison. Normally, lengthy lapses in humor spoil most of the fun a comedy has to offer. But Arthur's frequent and increasingly meaningful visits to his fountains of wisdom and love -- Hobson and Naomi -- ensure the film's heart continues to beat strongly, keep the real laughs coming (light as they may remain), and make Arthur as likable as an uncomfortably overgrown boy, erratic sot and bumbling upper cruster could be. Arthur isn't a perfect comedy, nor will it entertain everyone who gives it a spin. It's predictable, uneven and fairly hit-or-miss. It worked for me, though, despite everything working against it. A rental might just be in order.
Arthur Blu-ray, Video Quality
Arthur arrives with a sharp and sober 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer. Oh, it isn't without its issues -- oversaturated faces here, frenzied noise there, and ample crush throughout -- but, for the most part, the presentation is relatively respectable. Uta Briesewitz's extravagant, twice-baked palette is loud, sunburnt and vibrant, and primaries have the sort of distinct punchy power so many colorful comedy do nowadays. Skintones range from bronzed to lifelike to flushed, contrast is decidedly hot and heavy (to the detriment of several scenes), and delineation isn't very forgiving at all. Detail is easily the high point of the presentation, but even it suffers when searing whites and stark blacks stamp out its finer qualities. Even so, textures are nicely resolved and seasonably crisp, object definition and overall clarity is strong, and very little ringing invades the proceedings. Moreover, artifacting and banding are kept to a minimum, aliasing and smearing aren't factors, and the intermittent anomalies that undermine the cleanliness of the image are attributable to the film's original photography. Ultimately, Arthur's transfer is overcooked and overheated, but it's certainly more reliable than Brand's lanky lush.
Arthur Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like most comedies, Arthur is often a front-heavy affair, and Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't stray far from its source. However, there's enough flavor, fire and ferocity to keep things exciting and enough activity to make the resulting experience more absorbing than it might have otherwise been. Dialogue is clean, clear and intelligible -- even when Arthur has had thirteen drinks too many -- and dynamics are cheery and affecting. The low-end of the mix doesn't get much of a workout, but Batmobile booster rockets, magnet beds, nail-gun shenanigans and other heftier thooms and booms help the LFE channel earn its keep when called upon. Likewise, the rear speakers are featured fairly sparingly, but still take great pleasure in brandishing convincing directional effects and creating the rather believable, relatively immersive, altogether bustling city Arthur takes hostage. Crowds murmur, traffic whizzes past, drunken parties come alive, and Theodore Shapiro's music finds its way into every corner. The soundfield isn't entirely immersive, at least not in every scene, but it is up to the chatty, center-biased task at hand. All things considered, I doubt Arthur could sound much better than it does here. Fans will have very little to complain about.
Arthur Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Arthur draws the short supplemental stick, rounding up twenty-minutes of woulda-been, coulda-been extras. A strange development, especially since hours and hours of unused Russell Brand improv footage is probably littering director Jason Winer's floor.
Arthur Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There's no way to tell if Arthur will appeal to your particularly comedy tastes. It roped me in, but the majority of critics haven't been kind. Fortunately, Warner's high definition AV presentation isn't quite so problematic. With an above average video transfer and a surefire DTS-HD Master Audio track, the only underwhelming aspect of the film's Blu-ray release is its paltry twenty-minute supplemental package. Suffice it to say, a rental is in order. If you're lucky, you might just warm up to Arthur as much as I did.
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Arthur Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Arthur (2011) Blu-ray - May 25, 2011
Just three months after its U.S. theatrical release, Warner Home Entertainment will bring Arthur to Blu-ray. A remake of the classic Dudley Moore comedy, the 2011 version stars Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as a drunken billionaire who must choose ...
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