Arthur really isn’t about Arthur as played by Russell Brand. It’s about an actor trying to mimic the original Arthur, Dudley Moore, in the process coming off as a painfully unfunny, disgusting, and wholly unlikable dolt.
He never shuts up, his high-pitched voiced a constant bother, entire scenes layered underneath his squealing words instead of the other way around. There’s a chase outside of Grand Central Station, police chasing down Naomi (Greta Gerwig), and instead of trying to convey any sense of danger or tension, you’ll get Brand’s annoying cackle screaming over the top. How not entertaining.
Arthur is flat out atrocious, a blatantly stupid idea for a remake for a film that was marginally amusing in the first place. Dudley Moore salvaged that one; Brand slaughters this one out of the starting gate. Warner’s remake is sort of like starting a $40 million kitten orphanage full of promises, only the intent was actually to burn it down for insurance money and sympathy.
No, really, that’s how it works. We’re introduced to the playboy lifestyle of this obnoxious multimillionaire, tossing money away because he can while everyone on these New York streets are being hounded by the floundering economy. He’s a repulsive human being, and that’s assuming you can get past the voice.
His mother is even worse, a uncaring bitch who shoves a woman at Arthur because she thinks it will make him grow up. Instead, another woman enters his life, the bitchy mother says no, and the covers of the rich, showy magazines become more important than her sons own happiness. Partially, good for him (karma you know). In fact, there’s a bizarre, wildly out of place sequence where Nick Nolte tries to slice Brand’s tongue off with a table saw. He comes oh so close, yet there’s still 90-minutes to go. Crap.
It’s 90-minutes of remake hell too, a meandering, sloth-like pacing crushing not only the film’s tedious pacing, but the audience’s soul. We’re this in 3D, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brand reach out of the screen and literally grab an audience member’s spiritual innards simply because he wanted to.
Arthur tries for the sympathetic route, his unhappiness proving money can’t buy everything, and in the end, he gets the freakin’ payout anyway. Not only does he get the girl, we leave on his attempt to kill more street-side New Yorkers by slamming on the gas to his replica Batmobile. What have we learned? Nothing. Nada.
You can make a movie about a spoiled brat adjusting to society, even with the likeable Brand if you wanted too. Billy Madison is revoltingly stupid, yet it doesn’t take a left turn and imagine it’s anything else. Madison himself is simply mind bogglingly dense. Arthur, well, he is too, yet this sordid film has every intent on taking itself seriously, and elicit emotion from a lead decked out only in his underwear. No, it doesn’t work that way.
Warner seems intent on playing with these videophile emotions, seemingly getting their act back together before squandering their momentum with a miserable encode like this. AVC or VC-1 wouldn’t even matter (it’s AVC), the bitrate so starved the whole film is awash with compression. Backgrounds are littered with varying levels of chroma noise, and certain shots smear worse than a Universal catalog title smothered with DNR.
Edges can appear harsh, those contrasting edges completely unacceptable for a new release with their varying forms of ringing. Black crush is pathetic, Brand’s hair becoming a single blob on his head, while business suits look more like wetsuits. The whole thing appears on the soft side, not necessarily a damaging quality. Here, it doesn’t feel intentional, especially when the evidence is so overwhelmingly in the hands of the compressionists. The movie is terrible sure, but it didn’t deserve this.
If you’re going to dig for positives (and apparently it’s required to appear “fair”), colors prove brightly saturated and pleasing to the eye, assuming they’re not bleeding slightly. Flesh tones are grossly orange and where you have that, you have a handful of teal backdrops.
City views are the best of the best here, New York glistening when the pitifully resolved film grain isn’t choosing to be bothersome. A handful of close-ups are fine too, although so varying in their inconsistency, it’s amazing at times that any of them can come together to produce actual fidelity. The shadows don’t even have a chance.
New York is a loud city, and a lot of Arthur takes place, well, right in the heart of it. Why then is this DTS-HD mix so drab and lifeless? The occasional elevated train may speed by, captured with a distinctly average ear for tracking. The opening chase sequence in the Batmobile has a little pizzazz too, the rocket engines traveling through and providing a little thump on the low-end.
The rest of it might as well be taking place in a ghost town where people just happen to be walking around and driving in total silence. The images and audio don’t match up. You can take solace that it’s balanced phenomenally well, low dialogue, loud dialogue, indoor voice dialogue… it all works together. There is of course the benefit of modern fidelity and all that fun stuff as we should expect. There’s simply nothing really extravagant to get excited about.
Time spent with the disc is mercifully short, Arthur Unsupervised divided as to whether it’s a collection of outtakes, improv, or some type of sloppy making-of. Additional Footage is a random selection of deleted and extended scenes, as if you’d want anymore of this one. A brief gag reel isn’t even worth the time spent to collect them. Funnier stuff is found in the first “whats-it” feature. All together, it’s less than 15-minutes of cover art focal point fodder.