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‘Arthur 2: On the Rocks’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 08, 1988


Bud Yorkin
Dudley Moore;
Liza Minnelli;
John Gielgud;
Cynthia Sikes;
Stephen Elliott;
Paul Benedict;
Geraldine Fitzgerald;
Barney Martin
Parental guidance suggested

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Dudley Moore's Arthur Bach, that wealthy, boozing imp, slurs and staggers his way through "Arthur 2 on the Rocks," a drunken stupor of a sequel. And the result is about as funny as the plight of an alcoholic.

Moore, who made the 1981 "Arthur" potable by the force of his sprite-like personality, tries to be Peter Pan at Happy Hour again. But it doesn't work anymore. The times they are a-soberin', what with increased concerns about drunk driving (Mothers Against Drunk Driving, etc.) and high-profilers ranging from Bruce Willis to "Arthur's" costar Liza Minnelli going on the wagon.

If "Arthur 2" has any significance, it's to herald -- unwittingly -- the death of the Happy Drunk in the movies.

Our juvenile swigger and ex-waitress Linda (Minnelli) have been married for four years, still living handsomely on Arthur's pocket money (about $750 million) and now hoping for a child. Linda's told she can't get pregnant, so they apply to adopt.

But their parental plans are dashed when Arthur's arch enemy Bert Johnson (Stephen Elliott), still mad that Arthur ditched his daughter Susan for Linda in "Arthur" Uno, decides to wreak revenge. Gaining a controlling interest in the business empire of Arthur's father, the manipulative Bert forces the elder Bachs to cut off Arthur's funds. But if Arthur will divorce Linda to marry Susan, Bert promises to reopen the spigot. When the defiant couple elects to stay together, ditching their riches, Bert buys up any business Arthur attempts to work for, as well as any apartment the couple tries to rent. It's going to take Linda's leaving, a visit from the ghost of Arthur's old butler and mentor Hobson (Sir John Gielgud) and a contrived dramatic turnabout penned by scriptwriter Andy Breckman (who also wrote the stalled Richard Pryor vehicle "Moving") to put things back in the black.

By the sheer volume of his one-liners, Dudley Moore (also executive producer) comes up with a few winners. When first informing Linda of their financial tragedy, he tells his wife, "I just heard some wonderful news. We're going to inherit the earth." But most of the time he's flat on his face -- the victim of this comedic Mickey Finn.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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