New look "Arthur" checks into rehab

Tue Apr 5, 2011 12:35pm EDT
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By R.T. Watson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thirty years ago when people were living in the afterglow of a decade celebrated for liberal lifestyles, Arthur Bach could be a drunk and a movie hero at the same time. Oh, how times have changed.

When the new "Arthur," a remake of the hit 1981 film that made a star of British actor Dudley Moore, lands in theaters on Friday, audiences will get much the same movie but a different hero who recognizes his alcoholism and seeks treatment. It is a change that mirrors how much pop culture has transformed since conservative President Ronald Reagan took office that year.

"It was very important that we establish a context where the alcoholism was humorous and good fun but was not irresponsibly portrayed," said Russell Brand, the British comedian who wears Arthur Bach's tuxedo for the new movie.

"It's important to see a resolution to the problem of Arthur's alcoholism," Brand, who struggled with alcohol and drug abuse in his own life, told reporters at a recent news conference.

In 1981, society was coming off a decade that saw the rise of sexual liberation, women's liberation and gay liberation. AIDS was only first recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the widespread use of "political correctness" was still nearly a decade away.

In a testament to the era, a charming fictional millionaire drunkard, Arthur Bach (Moore), won over audiences and critics alike while spending most of the film extremely drunk and aimlessly cavorting around Manhattan. Along the way, he somehow manages to learn valuable lessons about the importance of life while both winning the heart of his true love and maintaining possession of his vast fortune.

And yet, Arthur achieves all of this without seriously confronting his addiction to alcohol.

SAME TUNE, NEW VERSE   Continued...

<p>Russell Brand, CinemaCon Comedy Star of the Year, poses during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, in Las Vegas, Nevada March 31, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Marcus</p>