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'Arthur 2: On the Rocks'

By Rita Kempley
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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Sequels,they keep on coming back like gnats alfresco. We've had Rambo, Croc, Number Five and Poltergeists, and now it's another round for Arthur.

Though the alcoholic playboy has had seven years to sober up, he remains a sloppy drunk in the pitiable "Arthur 2 on the Rocks." It's not a sequel, it's a relapse. Just when everybody, even Spuds, is cutting back, Arthur is on a bender. It might have been cute in 1981, but alcoholism isn't so funny anymore. For that matter, neither is Dudley Moore.

Moore has made a specialty of slurred words and was a staggering success opposite Sir John Gielgud, as his acerbic valet Hobbs, in "Arthur." Here, Gielgud reappears briefly as Hobbs' ghost, underscoring how sorely his wit and the character are missed. Hobbs was a father to Arthur, the boyish boozer who when last seen was finally about to grow up. But incredibly, he is still playing with toys in his tub, now a childish, irresponsible 53-year-old. "Arthur 2," directed by Bud Yorkin from Andy Breckman's screenplay, gives him one more chance to come of age.

Arthur Bach is now married to Linda Marolla, the once-spunky waitress played by Liza Minnelli, who's gone mush-brained on us. Linda has become as relentlessly cheerful as a Care Bear. Though he drinks constantly -- "If projectile vomiting ever became an Olympic sport, Arthur would win a medal," the late Hobbs says -- the Bachs are a fairy tale couple. But then, Linda is told she can't have children. "You would have made a great mother," Arthur says. "But at least we don't have to have sex anymore." The couple become helpless with laughter.

Linda literally hangs on Arthur, giggling at his every joke and telling some bad ones of her own. "He's never once been mistaken for a Supreme Court justice," she says to a department store clerk. The Bachs are shopping for baby furniture, as they've decided to adopt. Mrs. Canby (Kathy Bates) of the adoption agency isn't all that troubled by his alcoholism. She too is a walking happy-face, in keeping with the movie's perky tone.

Then a bad thing happens. Arthur's nemesis Bert Johnson (Stephen Elliott) takes over the Bach family business, thereby bankrupting Arthur, who jilted his daughter Susan (Cynthia Sikes) in the original. Inexplicably, this statuesque gallery owner wants the diminutive sot back. Susan confronts poor Linda -- still cheery as Mary Hart and making the best of their squalid new apartment. "Arthur needs an heir," says Susan. "I can have children. I'm as fertile as the Napa Valley." Who, if anyone, will claim the pickled heart of Arthur?

"Arthur 2" is meant as a cautionary tale for our times, an uplifting story of one man's triumph over scotch and soda. If you could get past the tortured plot, the tiresome characters and the asinine ending, there still wouldn't be anything there. Better put a cork in it, or else they'll send us "Arthur 3: One More for the Road."

Arthur 2 on the Rocks, at area theaters, is rated PG.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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