As the credits rolled on Arthur, I started to cry. Dudley Moore is dead, and worse yet, he spent the last years of his life slurring like drunk-Arthur due to a degenerative neurological illness. Liza Minelli became an alcoholic herself, then fell victim to a series of unfortunate events including hip replacements, encephalitis, weight issues, and failed Broadway shows, all culminating in her stomach-turning marriage to David Gest who threw away her Halston collection (bastard!). John Gielgud is also dead. Christopher Cross is a classic “Where are they now?” case. In short, the squelched potential in Arthur embodies more sadness than you can shake a stick at.
After I pulled myself together, I decided all was not lost: I could order up Arthur 2: On The Rocks. Of course watching the sequel to Arthur was an act of gluttony on par with eating that second piece of cake that you know will make you sick, or in more Arthurian terms, having that last drink that causes projectile vomiting. It should come as no surprise that Arthur 2 is a tragedy.
The opening scene is a sad indicator of things to come:
“You have to be the most annoying man I’ve ever met,” observes a man.
“Do I HAVE to?” replies Arthur, cracking himself up.
Yes Arthur, I’m afraid the dolt who wrote this movie thinks so. We meet up with Linda and Arthur five years into their marriage only to find that very little has changed. Arthur is still drinking and wasting time, and Linda has made no visible progress in her quest to become an actress. The only new development is that they have decided to start a family. Linda discovers that she is unable to conceive, so they decide to adopt. They are just beginning the proceedings when Arthur is given another ultimatum to marry Susan. No, I’m not kidding—after five years, Susan (who apparently has no self-esteem and is no longer Jill Eikenberry) is still pining for Arthur, and her father is still bent on destroying him.
We watch as Arthur and Linda struggle to stay together and survive without his family’s money, but their efforts are thwarted at every turn. Susan’s father makes it impossible for them to live or work in New York City, and Susan pays Linda an unpleasant visit that causes her to leave Arthur, believing they’ll both be better off. In turn, Arthur becomes homeless and starts hanging out with Hobson again. Yep, the same Hobson that DIED in the first movie. And I thought it was a good thing when I saw John Gielgud’s name in the credits.
Is anything about this remotely funny? You would think that with seven years to cough up a sequel someone could have come up with something better than this lazily-conceived disaster. There is nothing comical about a man being destroyed by both himself and outside forces. Even Arthur’s last ditch effort to blackmail Susan’s father falls flat, quite possibly making him the least heroic protagonist in the history of film. It’s even more disappointing knowing that there were truly interesting directions this film could take. Contrary to popular belief, Arthur is not incapable of working. He plays piano like nobody’s business and is funny enough to do stand-up. Why not work with his positive attributes? Why not let him join AA? Why, Lord, why?? Even Burt Bacharach was sleeping on the job with this one. Instead of Christopher Cross, he brought in Chris DeBurgh to sing some crap about the moon and New York City on the soundtrack.
The only thing that could be construed as a bright spot in this gloomy tale (aside from Dudley Moore’s lovable self) is that Linda and Arthur do get back together, and their insanely optimistic adoption agent (played by a surprisingly svelte Kathy Bates) delivers a baby to their door right about the time Linda inexplicably discovers she is pregnant. There is some joyful back-slapping as the story winds down, and Arthur meaningfully announces that he doesn’t drink anymore…. Well, at least nothing since the night before. All at once I could see Arthur 3 – Arthur on the floor, playing with his kids, and Linda coming in with her adorably tolerant attitude, wiping the drool from all of their chins. That’s when I really should have started to cry.