Finally caught up on what’s in the theaters today, and have two movie recommends and one rant:
The latest installment in the Kevin Williamson/Wes Craven slasher series.
Is it great? Hells no. Is it watchable? Yep.
We know the schtick … A lot of self-referential jokes about the slasher flick genre and its stereotypes in a film that goes on to break all the established rules and conventions while turning pretty girls into fillet o’ Hollywood Starlet.
The good … Emma Roberts has a break-out performance in this movie, and clearly establishes her place in the Roberts family acting heritage. She’s got massive acting chops and uses them. The film also features a list of ingenue eye-candy that will guarantee to draw guys from 14 to the grave.
The not-so-good: Phoned-in performances from David Arquette and Courteney Cox.
Look, this isn’t Truffaut … It’s a decent date-night flick that will have your honey clinging to your armpit for about 90 minutes (so please groom yourselves accordingly because, like, eew …)
I really wanted to like this film a lot. Great cast, interesting story. Competently-enough directed, and with great production values, especially in the cinematography department.
The writing, on the other hand, is kind of bipolar. The movie takes forever to get going, and then bursts into periods of manic action before lapsing back into a coma for 10-15 minutes.
Worth seeing, but … Meh.
And now for the rant …
The 1981 version of “Arthur” is, to my mind, a cinematic treasure. It is one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. A movie that was certainly greater than the sum of its parts, even though its parts were pretty damn impressive.
To me, “Arthur” was to the romantic comedy in the early ’80s what “Citizen Kane” was to dramatic narratives in the ’30s … It redefined the genre, although, unlike “Kane”, it was a box office hit from day one.
The film featured an outstanding cast headed by the genius of Dudley Moore in the title role, along with Sir John Gielgud, as Arthur’s butler and surrogate father, Hobson, as well as Geraldine Page, as the iron-fisted matriarch of the Bach family, Arthur’s grandmother Martha. Every one of these actors a bona fide legend and master of their craft. All three of these performances were positively awe-inspiring.
Back that up with a brilliant script from Writer/Director Steve Gordon, and a score from Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer-Sager, Chris Cross, and Peter Allen that, along with the cast, lifted, the entire film to a sublime level.
The film played in theaters for close to three years from its opening, and it re-defined the rom-com genre that had pretty much lost its fizzle in the late ’70s.
When I heard that the film was being remade, the only thing came to mind was, “Why?”
To borrow a quote from Neve Campbell’s character in “Scream 4”, “The first rule about making a sequel is: Don’t fuck with the original” … And there was no better illustration of this rule than when the studio decided to follow the ’81 film with the release of “Arthur 2: On the Rocks”, which was a total dud, despite the best efforts of the original cast. You can’t always trap lightening in a bottle.
There was absolutely nothing, well almost absolutely nothing, that could stand to be improved by re-making this film. It was a remake that could never, ever, hope to come close to matching the ground-breaking originality of the 1981 film. At least that was my expectation, and the new version of “Arthur” met that expectation.
“Arthur” is a complete and total travesty.
Russell Brand is an excellent comedic actor in his own right. He was absolutely brilliant in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, and his stand-up act is scathingly, and equally, brilliant. He is, however, no Dudley Moore, and that’s the crux of the problem in his portrayal.
Brand approaches the character with such obvious reverence for Moore’s Arthur Bach, that from the outset he appears to be attempting to channel the dead actor in what may have been envisioned as an homage, but plays out more like a bad impersonation.
The only time Brand shines is when he is playing material that is unique to the remake, such as Arthur’s sharing at an AA meeting. Without Moore’s performance looming over him, he delivers a very engaging performance … One that is unfortunately limited to about three scenes in the film.
The same could be said for Helen Mirren in the gender-bended role of Hobson, who is now Arthur’s Nanny and surrogate mother. Dame Helen is a fine actress, who showcased her considerable comedic skills in the role of a retired contract killer in last year’s “Red”. But the material she is given in this film is nowhere near the quality of the script that Sir John Gielgud had to work with in the original, nor does she have the dour attitude or capacity for droll, ironic, wit that Gielgud had … Because she isn’t an old English gentleman, and the gender switch just flat-out doesn’t work.
And this could also be said of the revamped role of Arthur’s mother, which replaced the Geraldine Page role from the original. Although the role has been made so insignificant in this version that it’s hardly worth mentioning.
The entire film is an awkward re-hash that misses its mark by miles, and just doesn’t have the level of wit, or heart, that the Moore version has.
The one shining exception to this is Greta Gerwig in the role of Naomi Quinn, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who Arthur falls in love with, but must forsake to marry Susan Johnson (soullessly played by Jennifer Garner), or lose his inheritance and the family fortune.
Gerwig is the sweetheart of Indie Cinema, whose portrayal of the neurotic-but-lovable Florence Marr in last year’s “Greenberg” single-handedly saved the movie from being just another shitty, obtuse, Ben Stiller flick.
Gerwig is a breath of fresh air and charm in a movie that otherwise lays there like a breakfast of yesterday’s bagels and lox.
She is bright, engaging, and utterly adorable in a totally not-Hollywood sort of way. In fact, if I could get in a time machine and go back to change the 1981 movie, I would grab Greta Gerwig and replace her in the Liza Minnelli role (which is the one thing in the original film I never got to begin with … I never understood Minnelli’s charm or appeal.)
This film is another pathetic effort from the Hollywood Big-Money Machine to make a safe bet guaranteed to pay dividends. You see, according to the Hollywood Suits, there is no more sure-fire way to box office gold than to take a classic film and remake it into some gutted shadow of the original, because audiences are too damn dumb to accept and embrace an original idea.
Sorry if I forgot the <sarcasm> tags.
So … If you were at all inclined to see this film, do yourself a favor and find the original on Netflix, or the VOD source of your choice, order some Chinese, and watch it with someone you love, or would like to love. It’s the best date flick around.
Also up for viewage this weekend:
- “A Game of Thrones” – HBO, starting Sunday, 4/17 George R.R. Martin’s Swords and Sorcery saga comes to HBO
- “The Borgias” – Showtime, Sundays. The story of a notorious pope, his wife, three kids, and assorted mistresses. Good, family-oriented, stuff. 😉