Observing her charge’s adventures, through it all, is Helen Mirren as Hobson, the man-boy’s affectionate but not uncritical British nanny – the distaff counterpart to Gielgud’s tart-tongued butler in the original.
As Gielgud did before her, Mirren provides most of the fitful laughs on offer by delivering a sophisticated running commentary on Arthur’s inexhaustible childishness. (In some ways, both versions of this relationship recall the dynamic between comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse’s delightfully dim man-about-town Bertie Wooster and Bertie’s supremely urbane “gentleman’s gentleman,” Jeeves.)
Peter Baynham’s script intermittently touches on the limits of materialism, especially as plot developments leave Arthur feeling increasingly isolated and no longer distracted by the partying and toys (e.g., a magnetic bed that seemingly floats in mid-air) that once cheered him.
At one point, in fact, Arthur re-enacts – albeit comically – a pivotal incident in the life of St. Francis of Assisi by divesting himself of the formal, upper-class clothing that symbolizes both his ultimately unsatisfying wealth and his exalted but restrictive social status.
Yet the movie gives a pass to Arthur’s promiscuity, and tends to trivialize his problem drinking – early scenes of which, indeed, serve as unabashed product placement for Maker’s Mark, a pricy brand of Kentucky bourbon.
The film contains a fleeting nongraphic bedroom scene, an obscured nude image, brief irreverent humor, frequent sexual references, a couple of uses of profanity and a few crude terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.