Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Arthur Is On The Rocks

Plus, Hanna is Certified Fresh, while Your Highness and Soul Surfer miss the mark.

by | April 8, 2011 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got an eccentric imbiber (Arthur, starring Russell Brand and Greta Gerwig); medieval mischief (Your Highness, starring James Franco and Natalie Portman); a teenage assassin (Hanna, starring Saoirse Ronan and Eric Bana); and a surfing survivor (Soul Surfer, starring AnnaSophia Robb and Dennis Quaid). What do the critics have to say?



I know it’s crazy, but it’s true: if you get caught between the moon and New York City, critics say you can probably do better than this remake of Arthur, which lacks the charm and wit of the 1981 original. Stepping into the shoes of the late Dudley Moore, Russell Brand stars as the whimsical, heavy-drinking hedonist whose irresponsible pursuit of pleasure threatens the good name of his staid family’s foundation. Arthur is told that he’s obligated to marry a woman he doesn’t particularly like (Jennifer Garner) or lose his inheritance — which is a problem, because he’s just fallen in love with a fellow free spirit (Greta Gerwig). The pundits say that Arthur has some decent gags and a nice supporting turn from the always-stellar Helen Mirren, but it mostly feels like an uninspired cover version of the original, and its protagonist — a frivolous rich guy with a drinking problem — seems a little outdated in our current economic climate.

Your Highness


Theoretically, Your Highness has a lot going for it: a couple of big stars (James Franco, Natalie Portman), an undeniably talented director (the onetime indie darling David Gordon Green), and a reasonably funny premise (medieval swashbuckling mixed with goofy, bawdy yuks). Unfortunately, the critics say the whole of Your Highness is hardly the sum of its parts; it’s a crass, undisciplined lark that gives the impression that its makers decided to film every wacky idea they came up with after a long night hitting the bong. Franco and Danny McBride star as a pair of hapless princes who go on a journey to rescue Franco’s kidnapped fiancée; soon, they’re joined in their quest by a mysterious warrior woman (Portman), who helps them vanquish all sorts of evil monsters. The pundits say Your Highness is a seriously weird movie, and while its sophomoric smuttiness is good for some occasional chuckles, it gets old pretty quickly. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Franco’s best-reviewed movies.)



Director Joe Wright made his name with a pair visually striking, widely-praised period romances (Pride and Prejudice and Atonement), so it’s understandable that he’d want to branch out. The result is the action-packed, skillfully crafted Hanna, which critics say is a film so energetic and dreamy that its lapses are largely forgiven. Saoirse Ronan stars as the title character, a 16-year-old whose father (Eric Bana) raised her in seclusion and taught her to become a soldier and a spy. But the real world is a scary place, and soon Hanna is on the run from the CIA and Cate Blanchett, who may have knowledge of the dark secrets in Hanna’s family’s past. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Hanna is a sleekly stylish mix of fairytales and espionage thrillers, featuring a remarkable performance from Ronan and enough mystery and depth to help you ignore the fact that the plot is mostly ludicrous.

Soul Surfer


Bethany Hamilton’s life is so remarkable that no work of fiction could do it justice: as a teenager, she was attacked by a shark while surfing and lost an arm, but she persevered and now surfs professionally. Unfortunately, Hollywood has a way of turning even the most incredible stories into feel-good blandness, and critics say that’s the problem with Soul Surfer, a well-crafted film that can’t rise above its melodramatic trappings. AnnaSophia Robb stars as Hamilton, a deeply religious surfing prodigy whose life is changed forever after a near fatal shark attack. However, you can’t keep a good girl down, and spurned on by loving parents and her faith in God, Hamilton works tirelessly to get back on the board. The pundits say Soul Surfer‘s action scenes are remarkable, but the film follows the inspirational movie playback too closely, and softpeddles both Hamilton’s Christianity and her painful struggles in an attempt to broaden its appeal.

Also opening this week in limited release:

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