Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ben & Arthur (2002)

Today on Movie Russian Roulette, Alex watches a movie that is like the unholy offspring of The Room and Birdemic: Shock and Terror.
Not unholy because it's gay; unholy because it's awful
Overview: Ben and Arthur are two happily together gay men who have pretty ordinary lives. Ben (the one in the cover shot) is a soulful nurse who really just wants to play his music. Arthur is unemployed, kind of ugly, and whiny. This is basically the gay version of that sitcom trope where the fat guy with the crappy job has an impossibly hot wife. These two fight cri- wait, no. I wish.

Our story opens with Arthur listening to an oh-so-convenient radio broadcast talking about gay marriage being legalized in Hawaii. He calls up Ben, excited, and they spend the better part of ten minutes packing so they can go get married. Yes, this is one of those movies: scenes of people packing for trips and parking their cars. The insanity does kick in later, don't worry.

After a lot of ado about the legality of Ben and Arthur's union that holds no real relevance to the plot, Ben gets divorced from his wife. This delightful woman's entrance is accompanied by ominous, March of the Empire-style music, and once she's in B&A's apartment has such delightful reactions as "What? You're not gay" and "Men can't get married in the United States."

Meanwhile, Arthur goes to look for a job. At some kind of Chippendale's knockoff, which gives us what is strangely not the movie's most repulsive sequence as the painfully out-of-shape Arthur tries to get his groove on. (Seriously, take a minute and a half to watch it. It must be seen to be believed.)

Now that the movie's halfway over, we finally get introduced to the real plot: Arthur is trying to go back to college, so he asks his estranged brother, Victor, for help. Victor is a hardcore "Christian" that even the most militant atheists would find unrealistic. He also has the unfortunate luck to resemble David Spade just a little.

I'd make a joke, but that would associate something funny with this man and we can't have that

Victor is troubled by his brother's marriage to another man and agrees to help, but only if Arthur basically puts up with his brother's homophobic shit (see quotes section).

Merry mischief follows as Victor tries everything from an anti-gay potion suggested by a fellow parishoner to straight-up murder of his brother's lawyer from the legal marriage subplot and baptizing Arthur at gunpoint after he forces him to strip naked.

In response, Arthur goes on a rampage of revenge that culminates in him burning a priest alive and facing off against his brother, Western gunslinger style. However, while this is happening, Arthur is wearing a half-open robe, rubbing his nipples, and moaning about how he knows Victor was jealous of Ben. Yeeeeeah.

Notable moments/quotes: Good lord, so many. Where to begin?

I really need to reiterate the dance scene. Please watch it.

Victor: "Are you still haunted by those demons?"
Arthur: "What demons?"
"Are you still a homosexual? ...Those demons."

During one meeting with the lawyer, she mentions having a "legal document" about how civil unions work. What she's actually doing is reading from the script in such a wooden way that a junior high actor would cringe.

Gay Johnny: "Victor, I'm gay. I already told you that."
*Homophobic David Spade and his buddy from church laugh uproariously*
Author self-insert: "What's so funny?"
Glam Christian: "You know, we can take care of that for you. Just join us for Bible study five nights a week. Get those demons of sinfulness out."

Ben's wife at one point returns, accompanied by a pistol and heavy techno music. She pulls a gun on her ex-husband out of jealous rage, and her hysteria deserves a goddamned Oscar.
Ben: "I'm gay, I told you that!"
Cray-Cray Ex, waving the gun around: "Then... I'll be gay too and that'll make it alright!"

For reasons I don't remember and my notes don't elaborate on, Ben slaps Arthur, which of course knocks our overweight hero to the ground and make him bleed from the mouth.
Ben, cleaning the blood: "That'll teach you not to say stupid things."

At one point, Victor speaks with his priest, who informs him that the other members of the church think that having someone in the church with a gay brother will turn their kids gay. (Seriously.) Victor gets excommunicated over this. Victor comes back with saying he'll do anything, even the "final deed" to get back in. When the priest asks, Victor clarifies that he means murder. Instead of calling the police, Father Shady Dealings slides him the contact information of a hitman. Unfortunately, this is not a clever Boondocks Saints reference.

Arthur, hearing his brother was excommunicated: "Well, you should probably find a better church!"

Arthur again, handing his brother a large dildo as the prelude for the movie's best line and an awesome comeback: "Now take this, lube up, and shove it up your ass."

My thoughts: This movie has no goddamned idea what it wants to be. Is it a drama about the struggle of gay people to gain acceptance through the legalization of their marriage? No, because the movie drops that plotline abruptly about a third of the way through. Is it an empowering revenge story for the LGBT crowd? No, because the bad guy is too cartoonish to be even remotely believable and our hero has a mincing run and throws stereotypical bitch fits (in addition to BURNING A PRIEST ALIVE), so he's hardly a positive portrayal. Is the movie perhaps a classic tale of star-crossed lovers who tragically fail to overcome the hardships in their way? No, because Victor gets what feels like 60% of the movie's screen time. The result is a confusing, disjointed mess the likes of which I haven't seen since, well... The Room.

I had mentioned the peerless Birdemic earlier, and it bears repeating now. This movie has god-awful sound editing, often with loud background noise almost drowning out the character's dialogue. The film quality is pretty bad as well. I'm convinced that anyone who spent over $100 on a camera would have better equipment than they used to film this turkey.

as opposed to Birdemic, where you'd only have to spend $20

Furthermore, I need to reiterate just how fucking unlikeable Arthur is. He's not attractive, whines a lot, dances even worse than Commander Shepard, and will probably make the world a better place once he's out of it. It's also a mystery how he and the chiseled Ben stay together; unless Arthur is amazing in the sack (and since the writer/director is playing Arthur, I'm sure he is but that part of the script got cut), he has pretty much no redeeming qualities. And he's the hero! We're supposed to root for him and believe he's the put-upon gay everyman just trying to make his way in a hostile world. But man, I think the world has a reason to be hostile to this guy. He's loathsome.

So, in conclusion, we have a movie with an unlikeable protagonist that doesn't know what it wants to be with terrible film/sound quality and a script that is bat-munching crazy. I absolutely loved this piece of shit; this is definitely in the upper echelon of bad movies I've watched. A true classic. This movie has been described as the gay version of The Room, and while I was skeptical anything could live up to Wiseau's craptastic classic, this movie absolutely does.

I give this movie a Nic Cage Practices the Art of Seduction out of five. Til next time. I made a Facebook page if you're into that kind of thing.

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