Arthur (1981) starring Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, John Gielgud, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jill Eikenberry, Stephen Elliott, Ted Ross, Barney Martin directed by Steve Gordon Movie Review

Arthur (1981)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli in Arthur (1981)

Raise Your Glass to Arthur the Lovable Drunk

There is something so wrong about "Arthur" the fact that the central character played by Dudley Moore is a drunk who incessantly wise cracks his way through life, drinks and drives and yet we not only laugh with him but sometimes at him. In today's world a movie about such a drunk would be seen as blatantly wrong, wrong that we should laugh at someone who seeks solace constantly from the bottle. But at the same time we like Arthur because there is a reason for his drinking, the loneliness and the pressure placed upon him by his rich family. It makes us take this lovable drunk to heart who means no ill to anyone. As such "Arthur" is such an entertaining but also surprisingly endearing movie which makes us laugh but also love.

Being filthy rich and quite lonely Arthur (Dudley Moore - Monte Carlo or Bust!) fills his time by getting drunk because it makes him happy. What doesn't make Arthur happy is that unless he marries Susan (Jill Eikenberry) his parents will cut him off and make him penniless. The trouble is that Arthur doesn't love Susan but loves Linda (Liza Minnelli), a young woman from Queens he meets when he spots her shoplifting a tie for her father. With Hobson (John Gielgud - Elephant Man), Arthur's fatherly Butler trying to pass on advice, Arthur must decide what is more important to him, the money or Linda.

John Gielgud as Hobson in Arthur (1981)

To look for anything in the least bit complex or really meaningful in "Arthur" would be futile. It may be a romantic tale at heart but it is an out and out screwball comedy, where every scene, well almost, is played for laughs, even when there shouldn't be any it manages to conjure up some form of daft comedy. As such it is highly entertaining as we find amusement in Arthur's drunken antics and observations, maybe a little too amusing because it does occasionally feel wrong to be laughing at someone's drunken antics.

But whilst an out and out comedy with a simple and to be honest predictable storyline "Arthur" is also strangely tender. You feel for Arthur because his love of drink comes from his loneliness and his pushy, snobbish parents who force him to marry someone he doesn't want to. You also feel for him when he falls for the less than polished Linda and although you know where things will end you champion their fun relationship. And in doing so the tenderness of "Arthur" really comes to the fore because it's through Arthur's love of Linda that he learns that money isn't everything and drink is not necessary a way of life.

And it's not just the relationship he has with Linda which delivers the tender moments as the relationship he has with his butler Hobson also has plenty of sweetness. It's heavily manufactured but the friendship that Arthur has with Hobson delivers a really nice element as well as a few surprises in what for most is a predictable storyline.

But aside from the storyline and the tenderness "Arthur" really works because it features wonderful performers delivering daft dialogue. Dudley Moore is just brilliant as Arthur Bach the lovable drunk, and every single scene be it when he is in a drunken stupor or occasionally sober is full of wit, with Moore delivering line after line of comedy combined with an almost infectious cackle. It could be called over the top acting with the levels of drunkenness being a little unbelievable but it works because Dudley Moore makes Arthur a loveable drunk, a harmless one which we can root for.

Alongside Dudley Moore is Liza Minnelli who shows a brilliant ability for comedy as Linda Marolla. It's an almost a stereotypical character the less than affluent girl from Queens, but Minnelli's quick fire delivery and lovable side just wins us over as she stands up for Arthur when he can barely stand up himself. And then there is the late Sir John Gielgud who is a revelation as Arthur's butler Hobson. You don't think of Gielgud as being a comedian but his dead pan delivery of sarcastic dialogue makes for some of the more memorable scenes as does the tender relationship he has with Arthur.

And to finish this fun romantic comedy off is a soundtrack, or really a song which is instantly memorable. The minute you hear the lyrics "When you get caught between the Moon and New York City" from "Arthur's Theme 'Best That You Can Do'" everything about "Arthur" comes flooding back. The rest of the soundtrack may be littered with minor memorable tunes but it is Christopher Cross's "Arthur's Theme 'Best That You Can Do'" which is really such a classic.

What this all boils down to is that in today's age of political correctness "Arthur" with it's comedy revolving around a lovable drunk may be frowned upon, but it is such an entertaining and also tender movie. With Dudley Moore firing off line after line as the lovable drunk and Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud making up the memorable trio everything about "Arthur" is just pure fun.