Flail­ing Brand sinks

This mor­ti­fy­ingly re­make of the Dud­ley Moore hit falls flat on its face, though sadly not in slap­stick fash­ion, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

TWO NAMES jump out at you from the cred­its to prom­ise that this re­make of a funny (if very scrappy) 1981 com­edy might be headed in an in­ter­est­ing direc­tion. No, we’re not talk­ing about that over­ex­posed Möt­ley Crüe im­per­son­ator. No, the no­tion of Dame He­len Mir­ren re­plac­ing John Giel­gud as the hero’s fac­to­tum does not overly ex­cite us.

The in­trigu­ing con­trib­u­tors are writer Peter Bayn­ham, a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor with Ar­mando Ian­nucci and Chris Morris, and Greta Ger­wig, the un­crowned queen of mum­blecore. You might not warm to Ger­wig’s class of heroic in­tro­ver­sion, but plac­ing her in a role pre­vi­ously taken by Liza Min­nelli demon­strates a de­ter­mi­na­tion to in­ves­ti­gate fresh ter­ri­tory. And, with I’m Alan Par­tridge and Brass Eye on his CV, Bayn­ham is sure to in­ject sub­ver­sive

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cur­rents into the piece.

No, no, no. Arthur is an un­mit­i­gated, som­brely un­funny catas­tro­phe, from first sip to fi­nal, pre-cata­tonic vomit. This ver­sion of Arthur se­cures an un­wanted place at the top (bot­tom?) of the chart de­tail­ing most mis­con­ceived re­makes. My apolo­gies, Mr Stal­lone: I didn’t mean to be so un­kind about Get Carter. The Step­ford Wives now seems pos­i­tively fra­grant, Ni­cole. Oh, we were only kid­ding about The Wicker Man, Nic. Join me for a bucket of gin while we dance un­steadily on the grave of Rus­sell Brand’s movie ca­reer.

As you will be aware, the plot de­tails the ad­ven­tures of a boozy bil­lion­aire who, pressed to shape up by his un­a­mused fam­ily, ends up un­will­ingly en­gaged to a snob with an ex­ces­sive pas­sion for big horses.

Un­for­tu­nately for his men­tors, Arthur has re­cently met, and fallen hope­lessly in love with, a spir­ited but poor girl. If he plumps for the pro­le­tar­ian, he will lose all his money. If he picks the rich mon­ster, he will be sad­dled with a dif­fer­ent, pos­si­bly more de­bil­i­tat­ing class of un­hap­pi­ness.

Hang on a mo­ment. Is this the first time any­one has noted the sig­nif­i­cance of Arthur’s loyal ser­vant (Giel­gud’s valet in the 1981 re­lease, now Nanny Mir­ren) be­ing named Hob­son? It’s Hob­son’s choice, you see. Con­sid­er­a­tion of such un­doubted co­in­ci­dences may, per­haps, keep you dis­tracted dur­ing a clat­ter of mor­dant in­ci­dents that fail to co­a­lesce into any­thing much like a plot.

In truth, the orig­i­nal was no clas­sic, but it got by on a few gor­geously funny lines – “Usu­ally, one must go to a bowl­ing al­ley to meet a woman of your stature” – and three ter­rific cen­tral per­for­mances, or four if you count the late, great Bar­ney Martin as Liza’s dad.

There are some good ac­tors here, but all are hope­lessly mis­cast. Ger­wig has in­suf­fi­cient en­ergy to launch a char­ac­ter that yearns for fire­cracker sta­tus. Jen­nifer Garner, who plays Su­san, the posh fi­ancee, has a nat­u­rally lik­able per­son­al­ity, and she fails mis­er­ably to cre­ate a con­vinc­ing mon­ster. Mir­ren fares some­what bet­ter, though her nat­u­ral flinti­ness strips the char­ac­ter of any po­ten­tial love­abil­ity. (One more co­in­ci­dence: fol­low­ing Julie Tay­mor’s re­cent ghastly ver­sion of The Tem­pest, this is the sec­ond time Mir­ren has at­tempted a role once mas­tered on film by Giel­gud.)

And then there’s Brand. It is only fair to ac­knowl­edge that this writer has never un­der­stood the ap­peal. To date, Brand’s main – pos­si­bly only – joke has in­volved us­ing un­suit­ably long words where per­fectly de­cent short ones would suf­fice. De­prived of the abil­ity to im­pro­vise, Brand comes across as des­per­ate, wooden and em­bar­rass­ing. The wretched lines are de­liv­ered as if by a my­opic man strug­gling with poorly writ­ten cue cards. Never sure what to do with his hands, Brand con­stantly re­verts to wild ges­tures more suit­able for a drown­ing bather some dis­tance from res­cuers.

Most sur­pris­ing of all, Brand, now in re­cov­ery from a lex­i­con of ad­dic­tions, doesn’t have any idea how to be­have like a con­vinc­ing drunk. Imag­ine watch­ing He­ston Blu­men­thal re­peat­edly burn toast and you will get some idea of the im­pres­sion given. FOR FANS OF road races, the Isle of Man Tourist Tro­phy is where it’s at, a piti­less, gutsy arena where the planet’s pluck­i­est speed freaks come to do battle. For non-fans, it’s a rum­ble of mo­tor­bikes go­ing round and around an is­land with sui­ci­dal haste, as in­ter­est­ing as sitting in front of a wash­ing ma­chine or gold­fish bowl.

TT3D: Closer to the Edge, a thrilling doc­u­men­tary ac­count of last spring’s meet, should de­light both faith­ful and ag­nos­tic alike. Adorned with crisp 3D im­ages and hel­met-eye views of po­ten­tially fa­tal twists and turns, the film is cer­tainly spec­tac­u­lar enough to make gim­micky, multi-an­gle HD broad­casts look flat and ana­logue.

TT3D also func­tions swim­mingly well as a punch-the-air sports movie, re­plete with un­der­dogs, fam­ily tragedies, old mas­ters and young upstarts.

Ir­ish au­di­ences will likely recog­nise the Dun­lop clan and young Michael Dun­lop, who re­cently joined his fa­ther and un­cle Joey in the record books. Michael, like the rest of the com­peti­tors, is aware of the in­her­ent dan­gers: he only took up the bike when his fa­ther was killed in a 2008 crash on the North West 200.

Michael’s col­leagues sim­i­larly pay tribute to fallen com­rades. The TT is rarely run with­out fa­tal­i­ties. Sadly, at least one of the film’s con­tribut­ing in­ter­vie­wees will not make it to the fi­nal reel.

Why do they do it? The en­quiry is quickly put to bed. Maybe it’s the adrenalin and a burn­ing need for speed, but these chaps (and the oc­ca­sional lady rider) are not back­ing down. Re­turn­ing champ John McGuin­ness has 15 wins un­der his belt, yet still packs up the wife and kids in a cam­per­van and leaves for Manx coun­try with a de­ter­mined look on his face. He has stiff competition – young­sters Ian Hutchin­son and Conor Cum­mins are com­ing up on the in­side.

They’re all in­trigu­ing and im­pres­sively ded­i­cated dare­dev­ils, but the un­doubted star of the show is Guy Martin, the mouthy mav­er­ick from Lin­colnshire who is an un­cen­sored, un­bri­dled force of na­ture. No rule­book is safe when he’s around. When he isn’t an­noy­ing track time­keep­ers or kid­nap­ping his own bike, Martin can be trusted to pro­vide hi­lar­i­ous com­men­tary on, well, ev­ery­thing. “No crime in a wank, is there?” he chirps dur­ing a re­veal­ing mono­logue.

Bad in bed: Brand and Mir­ren

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