Death by tray it shall be.
Reviewing a movie you expect to be awful but is actually only kind of bad is always a tricky prospect. Because you have to temper your relief with the fact that the thing is still kind of shit, and its kind of easy to be overly kind to a film simply because its terribleness wasn't sufficient enough to make you scream. See Fast Five's 78% rating on rotten tomatoes. But the trailer for Arthur had me anticipating some kind of apocalyptic level of suck, in which Russell Brand would make silly faces until I want Michael Ironside to explode my head just to make it stop. But the reality is Arthur is maybe only 20% unbearable nightmare, 30% sort of sweet and 50% unfunny mediocrity. It's really not funny, much of Brand's dialogue feels like half-hearted improvisation and his comedic performance is mostly pretty irritating. But I fond his relationship with Greta Gerwig sort of sweet, so sue me.
To be honest I think its mostly Gerwig's doing, taking a thinly sketched manic pixie dream girl and does the best she can to give her an actual personality, but she's just a winning, warm presence in a mostly hollow studio comedy. I once heard a desolate man say that nothing is worse then an unfunny comedy, and I'm inclined to agree, but I think what saves Arthur from veering into the inner circles of shitness is a slight sense of sincerity at its centre, something I'm inclined to think it just sort of lucked into. Sure there's Gerwig, and an expectedly sardonic and welcome performance by Helen Mirren as Brand's womanservant, who makes her mostly shitty dialogue sound an awful lot more caustic. Jennifer Garner gives a broadly fun performance as the self-centered unwanted fiancée. She certainly has fun. Brand meanwhile is a frustrating presence, because he's just trying way too hard here. He's capable of being a very good actor, as he is here in some of the films more emotional scenes, but he just pushes for laughs with too much vigor and that becomes pretty intolerable.
The fact that Arthur manages not to be a terrible film is some sort of a miracle, but lets not let that distract from the fact that its still not a very good one. Its way too long, with far to much saddled on to what should have been a fairly simple story. But I found a couple of moments to enjoy, so I suppose so can you. Plus Luis Guzman, in one of his large roles in recent years. I've actually never seen the original Arthur, and no doubt if I had I'd probably have a more focused hatred of it, but I haven't so I found it to be a grating, unfunny film that but that had its heart in the right place. And I didn't think I was even going to get that so. Yay?