Director: Jason Weiner
Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren
Runtime: 110 mins
Rating: **

This film is showing in York at City Screen. Click here for more information.

Is Russell Brand an actor? It’s that question that lies at the centre of this film. It’s worth noting that his previous appearances in film have been Brand playing himself (something he’s admitted to) – even in Julie Taymor’s movie adaptation of The Tempest, he was opposite Alfred Molina as the comic relief.

If Brand had potential as a serious actor, then Arthur would have been a great opportunity. The film – a remake of the Dudley Moore classic – affords him a lot of time to be flamboyant, crack jokes and be ever so slightly silly, but there are also some crucial moments that, played correctly, give the film a real emotional payoff towards the end. Brand nails the former, and buckles at the latter.

Not to say that he doesn’t try – when the titular character is at his lowest, about to be forced into a marriage for business reasons and in danger of losing both the love of his life and his nanny, you can see poor Russell trying to squeeze out the pathos. Once or twice, he actually succeeds, but it’s not enough.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course – no doubt the Hollywood execs who dreamt this film up assumed that because Brand is a British comedian who’s done rather well in America, he must be the spiritual successor to Dudley Moore, but sadly that isn’t the case. Moore always fancied himself as an actor who had a knack of making people laugh; Russell Brand is a stand-up who fell, almost by accident, into the film industry. Go see Arthur for the laughs, but don’t expect to be satisfied when it’s over.