Opens: Friday 4/8
Us Rating: ***
Russell Brand plays Arthur, a lovable alcoholic heir in NYC best explained by his aging nanny (a tart Helen Mirren): "He's merely shaped like an adult." The spoiled billionaire gets a wake-up call when his chilly mother threatens to freeze his trust fund. Her ultimatum: Arthur must marry domineering social climber Susan (a deliciously deceitful Jennifer Garner) to keep the cash.
Arthur accepts the offer -- but then immediately falls for a free-spirited tour guide (Greta Gerwig). The hugely talented Brand nails his witty one-liners, such as when he says Susan's lips make her look "like a sexy clown." Garner embraces her inner bitch as his comic foil, and Gerwig (Greenberg) has a refreshing honesty that suits her softhearted working girl.
When the plot goes bigger than Brand's personality, the movie runs off-course (a scene in which Susan's contractor dad threatens Arthur by shoving his face toward a table saw is just uncomfortable). But largely, this is a laugh-out-loud romp -- and the funnyman's best screen role to date.
-- THELMA ADAMS