Arthur is the story of a fabulously rich man-child whose height and irreverence definitely emphasize the "child."
|That's not perspective at work; Dudley Moore is tiny|
|He's had more to drink by 9AM than most men have all day|
|Hint: she's the horse wearing a hat|
|You'd cry if you fell for Liza Minnelli, too|
If absolutely nothing else, I can say that Arthur has finally helped me understand why anyone ever cared about Dudley Moore. While I found his drunken cackle to be ridiculously over the top, Moore handled the role of this perpetual drunken child pretty well. He was likable, rarely annoying, and occasionally very funny; while I did like his recommendation for a total stranger to divorce his wife, his best line was given to a hooker who had just explained that her mother died when she was six and she was raped at age twelve --- he asked "So you had six good years then?" Liza Minnelli wasn't too bad as Arthur's love interest, but her looks genuinely make me uncomfortable. She reminds me of some weird Doctor Moreau-type genetic experiment that blends human with a rat that has a comical fashion sense. John Gielgud was pretty excellent as the uptight (but loving) father figure to Arthur, and his snide remarks provide most of the film's humor.
The best and the worst thing about Arthur was Arthur himself. While Moore was pretty charming, his stupid drunk laugh grated on my nerves after a while. And his character had so many missed opportunities; for being such a childish man, he didn't seem to own anything terribly ridiculous or extravagant, or just plain goofy. All this movie really needed to put it over the top were the props Moore used in Foul Play (like the faux-tiger fur piano/wet bar). Put them (or anything silly, really) in Arthur's bedroom and you have some inexpensive chuckles that don't add any running time to the movie. Basically, for all the fun Arthur was having, very little of it was shown in his material belongings, which I thought was a big miss.
Arthur was writer/director Steve Gordon's only feature film; he died in 1982. He did a pretty good job here and showed promise as a director. It can be difficult to balance the humor of a comedy with character development, but I thought Gordon did a solid job with Arthur's character. I would have liked Gordon to imagine Arthur's life as a little more impulsive --- if there was ever a movie that could have benefited from some Wes Anderson-style development/art direction, it's this one --- but the important thing is that Arthur was likable. Gordon avoids the typical comedy problem of uneven pacing by never going fully slapstick. That's a double-edged sword, though; Arthur is decently entertaining, but there is no succession of truly funny moments in the film.
|Yes, yes, yes. You're drunk. I get it.|
While I didn't exactly love Arthur, I will admit that it was entertaining. While watching, I was underwhelmed by the lack of big jokes. In retrospect, I am disappointed by how boring Arthur is as a character. Still, this is a film that manages to overcome co-starring Liza Minnelli and put a unique stamp on the movie drunk and the snide butler characters. It's worth a watch.