Judge Brett Cullum often gets caught between the moon and New York City.
"I race cars, play tennis, and fondle women, but I have weekends off, and I am my own boss."—Arthur
Arthur is one of Dudley Moore's most memorable films, and it seems to still work even long after its 1981 theatrical run thanks to his endearing performance. A 2011 remake with English comic Russell Brand means that it is time to dig the flick out of the vaults and give it a Blu-Ray release. Warner Brothers has decided to unleash a bare bones edition, but 1988's dismal Arthur 2: On the Rocks is included. Suddenly I find myself longing for extras, but at least we get the very funny first film in high definition. I'm thinking of the sequel as the questionable supplement to the disc.
Facts of the Case
Arthur is all about a carefree constantly drunk playboy named Arthur Bach who stands to inherit 750 million dollars. The only thing he is required to do is to marry the equally well off Susan Johnson. But fate intervenes, and he meets a Jersey waitress named Linda who he falls in love with. Arthur has to decide whether the love or the money will make his life complete.
In the sequel Arthur 2: On the Rocks still-drunk Arthur and Linda face the same problem again. Susan Johnson's father takes over Arthur's family business and control of his inheritance. He demands Arthur divorce Linda and marry Susan or face losing everything. So once again Arthur has to decide between love and money. There's also an adoption sup-plot which calls in the talents of a young Kathy Bates (Misery) who is wasted in her role.
Arthur is a simple story that takes off primarily because of the chemistry of the cast. Dudley Moore was hot off his hit film 10, and he gave the character of Arthur Bach the right charm to carry the film while making you root for the drunk rich guy. Sir John Gielgud (Gandhi) almost stole the show as his dry butler, the perfect droll counterpoint to Arthur's manic persona. Mia Farrow, Farrah Fawcett, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Hershey, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Bette Midler, Gilda Radner, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd and Meryl Streep were all considered for the role of love interest Linda. But in the end, producers chose Liza Minneli (Cabaret), and she worked very well off both Moore and Gielgud. These three performers just seemed to have a blast working with each other, and they all sparkled in this light romantic comedy. The whole thing keeps you smiling from start to finish because it feels effortless. There's also a lot of help from a nice score from Burt Bachrach which includes the Oscar winning "Arthur's Theme," sung by Christopher Cross.
By comparison the sequel feels tired from the very start, even with all three leads back on board. Where the original was carefree the second chapter is forced and terribly labored. It's an overwrought mess that everybody seems embarrassed to be part of. Gielgud was lucky enough to only have to make a ghostly cameo, Moore disowned the film, and Minnelli got nominated for "Worst Actress" by the Golden Raspberry awards. It's a pointless excuse to try to cash in on the good will of the first flick. It doesn't work on any level other than proof positive that Hollywood will milk any cash cow it can until it breaks a good thing.
Arthur and Arthur 2 both get 1080p high definition transfers, but the first movie looks very soft and flat in comparison to the sequel. The 1981 feature has a lot of grain and not a ton of depth. The 1988 second chapter has more clarity and a bit more vibrancy in color saturation. Neither are exactly the kind of image you will use to show off your system, but they look better than they would on DVD. The DTS-HD sound mix for Arthur is mono and stereo for the sequel. Both are clear, but again underwhelming in terms of Blu-ray's potential. The only extras are the theatrical trailers for each film.
In 1981 Arthur worked as a light comical fantasy about a guy who didn't have to worry about money. The economy wasn't great back then, and thirty years later the film is still appealing for its light airy charm. Dudley Moore is cute and lovable, and so are Liza Minelli and John Gielgud. They all make you giggle and laugh until the dreadful sequel comes along. The Blu-ray is just fine with adequate video and sound, but there's not much here other than a great movie and its decidedly unfunny second part. The first film is well worth revisiting. I suppose I can forgive and forget about the second.
Guilty of making me want to run around drunk in a Rolls with Liza Minelli.
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