A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this remake of the popular '80s comedy is occasionally funny and at times even oddly touching, it's also raunchy and not as memorable as the movie it was based on. Given that the main character, Arthur (Russell Brand), is an often-tipsy millionaire, expect plenty of scenes with him swigging from a bottle, glass, or flask. While there aren't many strongly negative consequences for his drinking, it's not portrayed in a particularly glamorous fashion, either, and he ultimately has to learn how to be comfortable with himself without the booze in order to attain his heart's desire. Expect plenty of sexual innuendo and some lingerie scenes, though no nudity. There's some swearing, too, including "s--t," "bugger," and "bloody."
What's the story?
Multimillionaire Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) is drinking through his family’s money, content to fritter his days away swigging champagne and Maker’s Mark and cooking up schemes like arriving at his mother’s formal party dressed in a Batman costume. Even his companion/nanny, Hobson (Helen Mirren), is urging him to get his act together. Fed up with Arthur's antics, his icy, business-minded mother, Vivienne (Geraldine James), gives him an ultimatum: Marry Susan (Jennifer Garner), Vivienne’s ambitious right-hand woman who’s hungry for the Bach name and all of the power that comes with it, so Arthur will seem more stable to shareholders, or lose nearly a billion dollars of his inheritance. Arthur thinks the choice is easy -- go with the money -- until he meets quirky, unlicensed tour operator Naomi (Greta Gerwig), who offers nothing but a chance at love.
Is it any good?
Though no one will be talking about how this version of ARTHUR has supplanted the Dudley Moore classic, it’s not as big of a train-wreck as it could have been. For starters, it retains the original’s sweet center, albeit with a lot more schmaltz (not to mention strains of the cheesy but nostalgically appealing Christopher Cross theme song). And though Brand is no Moore, he has his own gentle-giant charm that makes his irresponsible alcoholic still somewhat appealing. What makes it work best, though, is Brand's easy chemistry with Mirren. It’s astounding how plain the stunning Mirren can become, and she steps into those practical nanny shoes nicely. She’s the mother he never quite had; he, her unruly child surrogate.
Still, this Arthur has no edge (profane innuendoes aren’t substitutes for edge). It doesn’t break any conventions; it doesn’t make you think. It is pretty funny in parts, but it's an unclever kind of funny. And what of New York, which the original did showcase? It’s not seductive here, but rather a pastiche of NYC greatest hits that renders the city soul-less, no longer caught near the moon. It’s just another romcom now.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's central message. Does love trump money? Can they co-exist? Or is it impractical to think that you can live happily ever after without being able to afford "happily ever after"?
Talk to your teens about how the film portrays drinking. Does it seem fun or iffy? How does the movie imply that? What would some of the consequences for Arthur's behavior be in real life?
How might the movie be different if Arthur used drugs instead of drinking? Why is one "worse" than the other?
Ask kids what they think their lives would be like if they were raised like Arthur, in a mega-rich environment without responsibilities. What messages does this film send about immense wealth?
- In theaters: April 8, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: July 15, 2011
- Cast: Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Russell Brand
- Director: Jason Winer
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references
For kids who love to laugh
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.