Who's In It: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Greta Gerwig, Nick Nolte, Luis Guzman
The Basics: 1981 happens and you've got this movie about a perpetually drunk billionaire who runs around being wacky. And since 1981 was sort of the last moment in American history when people could be counted on to think alcoholics were adorable or to happily applaud the antics of reckless rich people, that movie was a huge hit. It even spawned a terrible sequel. So Hollywood in 2011, completely unwilling to make films based on anyone but Christopher Nolan's fresh ideas, goes back to the bar and tries to make that lightning strike twice, 30 years after it luckily struck at all. Guess how it all turned out?
What's The Deal: "Arthur, he does as he pleases," goes the weird, ultimately nonsensical lyrics of the Christopher Cross/Burt Bacharach-penned theme song to the '81 Dudley Moore/Liza Minnelli movie. And those lyrics are right. He does exactly as he pleases. But this time around Arthur is Russell Brand and he is, apparently, not pleased to be here or pleased enough to make you laugh very much. It's kind of up to his mood. When he's got the notion to go off script for a second and make some offhanded, improvised aside, he turns into the Russell Brand you know and like, the odd-looking, drug-and-sex-inspired, stick-figurey comedy creature. And then the script slaps him back in line and makes him try to emote or, worse, sends his pickled alter-ego to an AA meeting. It might just drive you to drink.
Co-Starring Someone Who Thinks She's In A Better Movie Than This: No, not Helen Mirren. She's lost here, too. (Save for one moment I'll talk about in a second.) But mumblecore-birthed Greta Gerwig (Baghead, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Greenberg) delivers a strange, earnest performance that feels more like she's observing Russell Brand's tics and smelling the booze fumes coming out of his pores than falling in love with him. It's kind of funny when they're on a date and Brand presents her with a Pez dispenser he had made in her likeness, stating, "As soon as I saw you I knew I wanted to eat candy bricks out of your neck hole." And then nothing after that feels right or natural. When she resists him in the third act all you want to do is pay for her entry into an Al-Anon-sponsored witness protection program so she can get as far away as possible.
Helen Mirren's Oscar Clip: It involves her wearing a speech-altering Darth Vader helmet that makes the wearer sound like James Earl Jones in respiratory failure. She says, "Wash your winkie." I laughed. And I remember that laugh because I counted all of them on one hand.