Perhaps like most viewers who have watched and been longtime fans of the original 1981 Arthur film, starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli, I went into the new Arthur experience convinced I might not like it. I was surprised to find that it was certainly a pleasant film with many moments of genuine laughter but also not different enough to warrant a remake. Too many scenes were borrowed from the original making it impossible to not reference and compare the two versions.

For those who have never seen the original or know what Arthur is, it is the story of a loveable, filthy rich playboy who never quite grows up. He spends his time drinking, carousing about town causing trouble and tormenting his nanny, Hobson, for his own amusement. His life of raucous, carefree fun is threatened when he is forced to marry a woman he doesn’t love or lose out on being the heir to his family’s billion dollar fortune. Arthur meets a sweet, simple girl with no money but with a genuine heart and is torn between following love or wealth.

Although Russell Brand once again relies on his abundant humor and charisma to carry the role of Arthur, at times his bombastic outbursts become tiresome. During the few times in the film where he has moments of reflection or emotion, one can envisage Brand’s potential beyond the boisterous hullabaloo. When he is able to shed the comedic panoply he carries in every one of his films so far, Brand gives the audience a glimmer of hope that he can possibly surpass the typecast of the naughty but loveable drunk with narcissistic tendencies.

Also Brand’s interpretation of playing drunk is less slapstick in this version as opposed to Dudley Moore’s. Brand’s style of inebriation is more in line with that of a career alcoholic whose drinking is needed to stop him from going into withdrawal. Therefore the slapstick is not always necessary.

The casting of Greta Gerwig as Brand’s love interest Naomi creates a winning alchemy between the actors and a pointed contrast with Jennifer Garner’s power-hungry, man-eating character Susan. As much as Naomi is fun and quirky and light-hearted, Susan is brutal and cutthroat and relentless in her pursuit of status and wealth. They are the perfect foils for each other and the casting of the characters of Susan and Naomi are spot on.

Garner did a wonderful job of making herself a reviled and hated character. The viewer enjoys disliking her and she plays her role well. Gerwig’s quirky, fun, round-eyed wholesomeness ingratiates her with the audience. Her character’s childlike appreciation and awe with simple pleasures fits Arthur’s equally childlike amusement of life.

Another standout performance is by Helen Mirren in the role of Hobson, played in the original 1981 version by Sir John Gielgud for which he also won an Oscar. Mirren and Brand have a natural chemistry on and off the set, which works well on screen. Hobson’s dry, sarcastic retorts perfectly play opposite Arthur’s lunacy. John Gielgud created such a memorable performance, though, that it’s hard to not think of him facetiously telling Dudley Moore to return his library books upon his death when Mirren is reciting the same exact lines in this latest version of the film. Nonetheless, Hobson’s mix of understated emotion and controlled propriety is perfectly executed by Mirren.

Overall Arthur is a film that lends itself to light-hearted fun but was unnecessarily remade as a promotional vehicle for Brand. Although the role of an eccentric billionaire playboy suites Brand’s repartee of eccentric roles up until now, he certainly has the ability to show us quieter and simpler characters who don’t need to reflect his years as a rowdy standup comedian.

Audiences have high hopes for Brand because he does have talent. If he had the strength and willpower to overcome all of the adversity chronicled in his books, he certainly has the strength and willpower to overcome the burden (whether self-imposed or not) of industry typecasting. One would hope his next film will allow him to utilize his Drama Centre training in a poignant and subdued performance of a character who neither needs booze, drugs or crazy antics to entertain.