While Dudley Moore was a fairly big deal in his native England thanks to his work with Peter Cook as Beyond The Fringe, it wasn't until he was cast in 10 that he became and equally big deal in North America and as his star rose quickly, he was cast as the titular lead in 1981's Arthur. Now the basis of a big budge remake starring Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner and Helen Mirren, Warner Brothers have opted to release the original film and it's rather horrible sequel on double feature Blu-ray.
In this first film, Moore plays a middle aged man named Arthur Bach who has grown up never wanting or needing anything in life thanks to his family's immense wealth. Rather than do anything resembling work, Arthur spends his days drinking and goofing around. He also suffers from loneliness issues and while his family members try to set him up with one bachelorette after the next, he prefers the company of prostitutes and spends a considerably amount of time with them.
Eventually, Arthur's father has enough and essentially forces him into marrying a high society woman named Susan Johnson (Jill Eikenberry). Arthur resists at first as he dislikes Susan rather immensely, but his father (Thomas Barbour) threatens to cut him off financially and so he eventually submits to dear old daddy's will. Things get complicated when Arthur is out at a store and sees a woman steal a tie. He's intrigued by her and helps her get away and learns that her name is Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli). He starts courting her and as they go out and get to know one another they fall in love - but Arthur's family is still insisting that he marry Susan and should he choose to opt out of that, he'll find himself cut off from the family fortune.
Arthur is a fairly predictable film that succeeds almost entirely on Moore's performance. Minnelli is as loud and obnoxious as you'd expect her to be and Eikenberry is pretty vacant, bringing little of interest to her character. Moore, however, excels at playing a drunken man-child. His character is immature to a massive fault and obviously a very flawed man but Moore is good enough in the part (he got an Oscar nomination for this film) that we like him more than we probably should considering his personality and behavior. Having everything fed to him on a silver spoon his entire life he doesn't know any better and it's watching Moore step into this role that makes the film entertaining. As the story progresses everyone, of course, finds their more sensitive and human side and they all learn something about one another and about life but it's not that which will make you want to watch the film, it's seeing Moore act drunk.
The film has a few obvious flaws, the largest of which is portraying obnoxious Linda as the more desirable of the two women in Arthur's life (Eikenberry's Susan isn't very exciting but she at least seems well balanced and reasonably nice), but if you don't think too much about things like that, the picture holds up as passably entertaining.
Arthur 2 - On The Rocks:
We all know that film studios will cash in on anything they can and make sequels to pictures that don't need sequels simply to make a fast and easy dollar. Case in point? Arthur 2 - On The Rocks, made in 1988, seven years after the original hit box office gold.
When the film begins, Arthur is now married to Linda but he's still a raging drunk with a bad sense of humor who does little but get hammered all day and tell bad jokes. Arthur is also still rich, but that's not the reason Linda holds out hope for her waste of a husband, no, it's because she loves him. She loves him so much, in fact, she wants to have a child with him - but sadly, the plumbing doesn't all work and so they decide to adopt (look for Kathy Bates as the administrator of the adoption agency). A pretty serious monkey wrench gets thrown into their plans, however, when Burt Johnson (father of the woman Arthur didn't marry in the first film) is all of a sudden in charge of the Bach family business. He states that if Arthur doesn't divorce Linda and marry Susan, he'll take away all their money.
The first film was goofy and hokey and hard to take seriously but it's nowhere near as asinine as this sequel. Poorly written and entirely unfunny, not even Moore can save this one. He's still got the right quirk and charm to make it work but the dialogue and very premise of the picture are both so bad that the whole thing stinks. The film is meant to be sweet and to show us how love can conquer all but it comes off as trite, forced, shallow, and far too conveniently written for any of it to matter. Minnelli is irritating here, putting up with her souse of a man for reasons never made entirely clear, while Arthur's family all turn out to be a bunch of money grubbing jerks who are just as bad as the Johnson's are.
There are a couple of moments here that Moore fans might find amusing, but few more than that and it's honestly pretty difficult to imagine anyone wanting to go back to revisit this turkey. The first film? Sure, it has enough about it that works but no, not this sequel.
Warner presents both films in AVC encoded 1.85.1 1080p high definition transfers. Arthur is a fairly flat looking movie and while this Blu-ray release does offer what is obviously more than standard definition could provide in terms of detail and texture, there's a good bit of softness to the image so don't expect too much from the picture quality on the first time. The second movie has noticeably more detail and better texture and while it's not reference quality, it does offer quite a bit more to look at in terms of high definition quality. Both films are free of any major print damage, though you'll note a speck here and there, and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Color reproduction is also generally fine on both pictures.
Aside from the fact that the levels are a bit low, the English language DTS-HD 1.0 mix on Arthur sounds alright for what it is. Range is a bit limited but the dialogue is easy enough to understand and the score sounds good. Arthur 2 is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and so it has a bit more range and activity going on, which results in a slightly more engaging mix. Neither track sounds great, but neither sounds bad either. Optional Dolby Digital dubs are provided for both films in French and Spanish and optional subtitles are offered for both pictures in English, French and Spanish.
Aside from the two movies, the only extra on this disc is a theatrical trailer for each film (both in standard definition), some static menus, and chapter selection.
While Arthur remains a moderately entertaining picture, Arthur 2 remains fairly dreadful. Dudley Moore's fanbase will probably want to add this one to their collection as will the hardcore Liza-philes but the Blu-ray release isn't really much to write home about. It offers both films in quality that is better than what DVD could provide but neither presentation is remarkable in anyway and the lack of extras doesn't help. Rent it to see the fist movie again.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.