MONEY makes the world go around, but it can’t buy you love or a flawless update of the Oscar-winning 1981 comedy starring Dudley Moore as the eponymous billionaire and Sir John Gielgud as his long-suffering, strait-laced butler.
Director Jason Winer and screenwriter Peter Baynham cast Russell Brand as their loveable yet irresponsible man-child, whose limitless fortune allows him to circumvent the laws that keep the rest of society in check.
Unlike his predecessor, Brand doesn’t possess the innate vulnerability or charm which compelled us to care for Arthur as he boozed himself towards oblivion.
Instead, this new version opts for risque humour and pop culture references, including a cameo for Evander Holyfield as the hero’s boxing coach and a crunching appearance by the Batmobile in the opening sequence.
Crucially, Winer’s film chooses a female nanny to keep Arthur out of trouble, casting Oscar winner Helen Mirren in this pivotal role.
She brings gravitas to the part and nabs many of the best lines, gently tugging the heartstrings when the friendship with her reckless ward is tested to its limit.
Arthur Bach (Brand) is heir to his family’s vast fortune, presided over by his emotionally cold mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James).
The headline-grabbing antics of her son threaten the public image of Bach Worldwide and Vivienne summons Arthur to her office.
“I remember you from when I used to live in your womb,” he grins cheekily.
Vivienne informs Arthur that he will marry corporate executive Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner) to ensure she can take charge of the company.
If Arthur refuses, he will be cut off from his inheritance and the privileged lifestyle he has known since birth.
Arthur resigns himself to marital hell, only to run into tour guide and aspiring author Naomi (Greta Gerwig) outside Grand Central Station.
She has no clue who he is, and he responds warmly to her quirky sense of humour.
Soon after, Arthur tries to persuade his mother to marry for love not financial security.
“I respect your integrity. You just lost 950 million dollars,” threatens Vivienne.
So Arthur goes ahead with the nuptials while secretly seeing Naomi, aided and abetted by his nanny Hobson (Mirren) and chauffeur Bitterman (Luis Guzman).
Arthur boasts some nice moments, most of them involving Mirren and Brand whose on screen rapport sustains interest through the unwieldy 110 minute running time.
Brand’s tomfoolery skirts brashness and sexual chemistry with Gerwig simmers, but never quite boils.
Meanwhile, Garner vamps it up as the ambitious social climber, whose bullying father (Nick Nolte) doesn’t blink twice when Arthur accidentally shoots him with a nail gun.
Comparisons with the original film are not particularly favourable and in the current climate of global recession and austerity, it’s hard to care about a man with pockets deeper than his feelings.