n 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, British comedian (and husband to Katy Perry) Russell Brand stole the show, giving a hilarious performance as an insufferable, egotistical rock star. He successfully played the same character in last year's Get Him to the Greek. But that might have been the last laugh. In the remake of Dudley Moore's 1981 classic Arthur, which opens Friday, Brand has his biggest Hollywood role to date — and one critic calls his performance in the lead role "toxic." Have Americans soured on the lanky British import? (Watch the Arthur trailer.)
Definitely. So much Brand is not a good thing: Brand was "brilliant" in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and "still amusing" in Get Him to the Greek, says Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly, but here he's intolerable. Watching Arthur, I found myself wondering "why are we sitting and watching this dithering, half-cocked egomaniac?" It seems his "singsong Cockney flippancy" schtick only works in small doses. It "becomes toxic when it's the whole show."
He is no Dudley Moore, that's for sure: "Brand's aura of entitled insouciance worked beautifully" in the earlier films, when he was playing a "scrawny, spoiled rock star who begs for our adoration but doesn't want our love," says Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. But here, where we need to like him, he's "repellent." The original Arthur worked because Dudley Moore made the title character "unrepentant" yet "lovable." Brand's "Arthur is less a gentle, wounded soul than a petulant brat who insists on getting his way," and that drags down this whole mess of a film.
"REVIEW: Unfunny Arthur mistakes aggressive whimsy for charm"
Come on now, he is still funny: I know I'm in the minority here, but I enjoyed the film, and I don't think that remaking Arthur "constitutes some form of cinematic sacrilege," says Glenn Kenny at MSN. "Brand definitely carries the first hour with his free-associative riffing and childlike energy, making the irresponsible rich playboy a more-than-acceptable mercurial object." Granted, the second half of the film has some plot issues weighing it down, but Brand's "slightly fake-deferential but unmistakably barbed delivery" does make for some funny moments throughout.
"Brand new Arthur"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Why is it so expensive to build a bridge in America?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- Here's proof that Justin Bieber is just as spoiled as you always thought
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The GOP must try to win over African-Americans
- What would a U.S.-China war look like?
Subscribe to the Week