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Originally published Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 3:02 PM

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‘Arthur Newman’: Road movie runs out of gas

A review of “Arthur Newman,” a movie neither romantic nor comic, starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Arthur Newman,’ with Colin Firth, Emily Blunt, Anne Heche, Emmet Walsh, David Andrews. Directed by Dante Ariola, from a screenplay by Becky Johnston. 101 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Several theaters.

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How can two performers as charming as Colin Firth and Emily Blunt make a movie with so little charm? “Arthur Newman,” a melancholy romantic non-comedy directed by Dante Ariola, isn’t terrible; you can see its good intentions in every frame, and its message about accepting yourself and your past is a warmhearted one. But there’s a leaden feel to the story, rather than a sparkle; it plods along until it’s over, and you wonder why these talented people didn’t just do something else instead.

Firth plays the title role, a man whose real name is Wallace Avery but who, depressed with his life, decides to reinvent himself as Arthur Newman, golf pro. Arthur is a congenial fellow who speaks in clichés and uses words like “gig” with visible quotation marks; Wallace, a man made less confident by divorce and middle age, hides inside of him. En route to his new job in Indiana, he meets Michaela aka Mike (Blunt), a pretty, fragile kleptomaniac who’s fleeing her own messed-up life. For a few days and a few hundred miles, they hang out together, watching other couples and trying on new identities like borrowed coats; they’re not in love, not quite, but each finds something poignant in the other.

This could be a sweet story, and Firth and Blunt find a few moments of connection — and a few occasions to remind us that he’s impossible to dislike on screen, and that she has a way of making even the most mundane dialogue feel fresh and unexpected. But they’re trapped in a dreary movie (even the daylight scenes seem dark); on a road trip, but with nowhere to go.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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