Arthur (1981)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Arthur</strong> (1981)

(In French, On Cable TV, December 2018) Here’s a useless bit of childhood memory: Back when I was a boy, there was a French-Canadian TV show hosted by René Homier-Roy that offered viewers a choice between two movies to watch—viewers could call in during the following week, and pick the movie they wanted to see. Homier-Roy (a legend in French-Canadian broadcasting) would often pit 1981’s Arthur against other picks, nudging viewers toward it … only to be disappointed when viewers inevitably picked the other film. I only mention this because this is the kind of childhood memory that sticks in mind and leads middle-aged men to finally sit down and see what the fuss was about. Alas, the childhood curiosity was better than the adult review: While I can see how Arthur may have appealed to certain audiences in 1981, it feels like a stultifying bore in 2018. I’ll admit that my overall lack of interest in Liza Minelli may have something to do with it—given that she’s the film’s love interest and hence the goal to motivate everything else, a lack of interest there means severely limiting the film’s appeal. More successful is Dudley Moore’s portrayal of the title character—a wealthy heir seemingly content in drinking himself to a constant stupor, and indulging in a few eccentricities along the way. He’s slated to marry another heiress, but then comes Minelli’s character—a lower-class young woman—to change his ways. Arthur is really a belated coming-of-age romantic comedy, as an adult character who never had a reason to grow up suddenly has to—notably through the death of a surrogate father. There’s a touch of sadness to Arthur that prevents it from being an all-out feel-good romantic comedy, something reinforced with the gritty backdrop of early-1980s New York City. It works, but I was not as charmed or as amused as I expected it to be—but perhaps I’m unfairly comparing it to the shallowed but funnier 2011 remake. Sorry, René: I too would still pick something other than Arthur if you offered me the choice.

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