Could Arthur Spell Trouble for Russell Brand?

Russell Brand may be in for a long weekend.

The bawdy British comic takes over

for Dudley Moore in the just-released remake of the 1981 classic Arthur.

The early reviews have been withering. And the initial two trailers won’t convince many movie goers to give Brand’s latest a try. Not only are there few laughs to be found in either, they leave a main character on the cutting room floor – Greta Gerwig as Arthur’s love interest.

That might doom Arthur 2.0 to box office oblivion.

But Brand isn’t to blame for bad marketing, and since every other ‘80s favorite is being rebooted it’s hard to say Arthur deserved special protection.

Brand’s speedy career arc has been remarkable. Three years ago, he made a splash as a hedonistic rock star in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He parlayed the role into a spinoff feature, Get Him to the Greek, and the chance to step into Moore’s miniature shoes as the sloshed Arthur.

Yet Brand has a legion of detractors, notably amongst the critical set.

* Unable to relax, Brand is unable to charm. Without coming near a ukulele, he manages to be as odious as his doppelganger, the ’60s novelty singer Tiny Tim. – The New York Post

* Brand can be funny in supporting parts. But he doesn’t yet know how to command a front-and-center role, and Arthur groans with the effort from its first moments. – The AV Club

* If anything, this movie should put a nail in the coffin of Russell Brand’s career as a movie comic because, well, the guy’s just not that funny. – The Huffington Post

What I admire about Brand is that there’s more much to his shtick than just that frizzy hair and warbly speech. Listen to him on a chat show and you’ll hear a fertile comic mind at play. That’s evident during Arthur, a film that’s consistently witty even if it ultimately can’t live up to its predecessor.

The gangly comic’s screen career is still brand new, pun mostly unintended. And he’s already scored one major hit in Marshall, proved he could anchor a comedy in Greek and made a slick Hollywood remake that doesn’t embarrass the source material via Arthur.

Frankly, it’s shocking that the alcohol-fueled Arthur could be remade in the first place given our PC times.

Where Brand may struggle is straddling the line between outrage and the mainstream. He tries to do so in Arthur, and it doesn’t always work. Having cinema’s premier drunk attend an AA meeting simply feels too sterilized. Some of Brand’s best bits take us out of our comfort zone.

Brand’s big screen future could indeed take a hit if Arthur tanks. But I’d rather watch him on screen than suffer through another Saturday Night Live skit writ large or a fourth Focker.

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Christian Toto

Christian Toto is a freelance entertainment reporter and film critic with more than a decade of experience in daily newspapers, magazines and the Web.He blogs about film at What Would Toto Watch? and is a member of both the Denver Film Critics Society and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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