Arthur 1 & 2
Arthur (April 7/11)
Written and directed by Steve Gordon, Arthur follows the alcoholic title character (Dudley Moore) as he meets and falls for a sassy New Yorker named Linda Marolla (Liza Minnelli) - which, given that he's meant to marry a wealthy society type (Jill Eikenberry's Susan Johnson), inevitably causes problems within his upper crust family. There's little doubt that Arthur benefits substantially from the irresistible relationship between Arthur and his loyal yet hilariously sarcastic butler (John Gielgud's Hobson), with the characters' ongoing banter proving instrumental in initially capturing the viewer's interest. (Gielgud's scene-stealing work justifiably netted the actor an Academy Award.) The affable vibe is heightened by Arthur's initial encounter with Minnelli's Linda, as Gordon offers up a charming meet-cute that immediately forces the viewer to root for Arthur and Linda's coupling - although it's interesting to note that Gordon resists the temptation to transform Susan into a shrill, snooty villain (ie she's perfectly nice in her own way). It's only as Arthur segues into its comparatively slow midsection that one's attention begins to wane, with the progressively less-than-captivating atmosphere exacerbated by the relative absence of both Minnelli and Gielgud's respective characters (ie Gordon emphasizes the protagonist's episodic exploits to an almost oppressive degree). The film subsequently suffers from a hit-and-miss quality that wreaks havoc on its momentum, thus ensuring that the whole thing peters out long before it arrives at its admittedly upbeat and satisfying conclusion - which effectively cements Arthur's place as a watchable yet consistently uneven piece of work.
Arthur 2: On the Rocks (April 9/11)
A mildly entertaining yet utterly needless sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks picks up several years after the events of the first film and follows Dudley Moore's Arthur as he's forced to cope with the loss of his substantial fortune - with the situation compounded by the fact that he and Linda (Liza Minnelli) are attempting to adopt a baby. Arthur 2: On the Rocks, right off the bat, establishes itself as a rather redundant and downright desperate followup, as the movie stretches the limits of credibility right from the get-go with the revelation that Arthur is still drinking (ie wouldn't Linda have forced him to quit a long time ago?) It's a testament to both Moore and Minnelli's charismatic work that the film remains relatively watchable throughout, although there's little doubt that the movie grows more and more sluggish as it progresses - as scripter Andy Breckman begins emphasizing plot developments of an increasingly outlandish and downright tedious nature (ie Arthur becomes a hobo). The film's pervasively ill-conceived atmosphere finally reaches its breaking point as Arthur encounters the ghost of John Gielgud's Hobson, with the admitted chemistry between Moore and Gielgud's respective characters simply unable to compensate for the ridiculousness of this absurd twist. It is, as a result, impossible to label Arthur 2: On the Rocks as anything more than a cynical effort to cash in on the original's success, and it's ultimately not difficult to see why the movie is now considered one of the most underwhelming sequels in cinematic history.