In this rethink of the 1981 screwball throwback, the titular drunken heir, originally played by lovable lump Dudley Moore, has been rebuilt to suit slinky British sleaze-comedian Russell Brand, whose constant nattering rarely transcends throat-clearing improv. Still supposedly a debauchee, Brand's Arthur cruises Manhattan in too-tight schoolboy suits and fawns over Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a wide-eyed tour guide who wears rompers and longs to write books for kids, while John Gielgud and Geraldine Fitzgerald's parental surrogates have been conflated into a single nanny (Helen Mirren), still hanging around the 30-something Arthur's nursery. Where Moore's Arthur found his establishment-defying soulmate in wacky poor girl Liza Minnelli, the new film attempts to romanticize Arthur and Naomi's shared childlike naïveté and chaste affection; the billionaire's business-minded arranged bride, on the other hand, is sexually aggressive to the point of debasing the actress who plays her (Jennifer Garner). Maybe the 1981 film isn't exactly a sacred cow, but from the temperance subplot that replaces the original's unrepentant celebration of Arthur's obliteration to the shitty up-tempo cover of Christopher Cross' karaoke classic "Arthur's Theme," this remake seems to exist only to zap the original of its minor pleasures.
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