UK comedian Russell Brand had to know agreeing to star in a remake of “Arthur” was risky. Another British comedian, Dudley Moore, was stellar in the 1981 original, turning it into a classic. What was Brand thinking?
The first reviews are in and it couldn’t be worse. Russell is no Dudley. He’s a dud.
The 35-year-old actor plays drunken millionaire playboy Arthur Bach, who is heading for an arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress when he meets a working girl and falls for her.
He’s supported by a top cast, including Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and Nick Nolte, but the critics just aren’t buying it. What’s more, they are zeroing in on the funny man.
The film premiered last night (Apr. 5) in New York, and critic Marshall Fine probably captured the sentiment as well as anyone. He declared that Brand’s career was all but over.
“The guy’s just not that funny,” he wrote on the Huffington Post.
British comics often have a tough time in America, because what’s funny in Great Britain often isn’t here. Blame it on cultural differences.
UK comic Ricky Gervais ran into the same problem at this year’s Golden Globes. His acerbic brand of British humor just did not translate. Brand is cut from the same cloth.
One thing is certain, Brand is no Moore, one of a few UK comics who won over U.S. audiences.
Moore was sympathetic, adorable, self-effacing, and he won a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for his work.
In contrast, Brand is brittle, shrill and ultimately abrasive. Plus, Moore was a polished actor with a gift for nuance. Brand is one-dimensional and a bundle of nervous energy.
OK! magazine’s critic said he was “channeling Johnny Depp channeling Keith Richards channeling a lifetime of chemical abuse.”
While the overwhelming majority of critics have yet to weigh in on the film, the trend is ominous on Rotten Tomatoes, which tracks reviews and audience sentiment. Twelve of 13 reviews posted, so far, are pans.
But all is not lost.
While critics will inevitably compare Brand to Moore, most theatergoers under the age of 30 have probably never seen the early version. That’s Brand’s target audience.
Tellingly, more than 80% of Rotten Tomatoes’ users said in a survey they want to see the movie.
Brand conceivably could be saved by good word-of-mouth reviews by theatergoers. But right now, it looks like his career is on a one-way trip to Palookaville.
Check out the trailer below: