By: BabyRuth (Six Beers) –
Just when I thought I had seen them all…
Described as “The Homosexual Equivalent of The Room,” “The Worst Gay Movie of All Time,” and currently number 19 on IMDB’s “Bottom 100” list, Ben & Arthur is… oh boy, it is… well, it’s sure something.
Our protagonist, the person we are meant to sympathize with and root for (remember this when watching the movie) is Arthur.
No, that’s not Arthur on the DVD cover, that’s Ben, we’ll get to him in a moment. This is Arthur:
Arthur is played by writer/director/producer/executive producer/cinematographer/editor/music editor/and casting supervisor Sam Mraovich.
Ah yes, you can see where this is going, can’t you? A singular person’s vision come to fruition despite lack of skill, talent, and other people’s constructive criticism…
The story of Ben and Arthur goes like this:
Ben and Arthur are a couple of three years, desperately waiting for gay marriage to become legal. It finally does in the state of Hawaii (we learn this from a radio broadcast that Arthur just happens to turn to at precisely the right moment). Overjoyed, the two pack that instant to leave the very next day to make it official.
Unfortunately, in the span of less than 24 hours, the judge decided he was a little hasty and reverses his decision to legalize gay marriage so Ben and Arthur don’t go to Hawaii, even though they will lose the thousands of dollars they spent on the trip. Sure, that makes a lot of sense. (Spoiler: Get used to things not making any sense in this movie.)
They consult their lawyer, aka Least Competent Lawyer Ever Portrayed on Film, who informs them that she “needs to read up on the laws more” but that they can get married/have a civil union (the two are interchangeable in this movie) in Vermont, which- I know what you’re thinking – why wouldn’t they just go there in the first place?! After all, Vermont has just as many palm trees as Hawaii.
And a flight special that will get you there by 10:30AM!
But Ben has a secret! He is already married, TO A WOMAN, “some bitch named Tammy.” She is psychotic and awful, as women tend to be. And she refuses to accept he’s gay- despite his living with Arthur for three years. Also, Ben never bothered to bring this up, even when he and Arthur were planning to get married!?! (Remember what I said earlier about nothing making any sense?)
The two work in a deserted diner/cafeteria. Ben is a dishwasher, or more accurately, a paper cup washer, and Arthur is a server. Arthur hates his job and dreams of opening up his own sex shop someday. Ben encourages Arthur to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, besides, he can always go back to nursing if they need money. WHAT!?! Yup, Ben is a simple man, who prefers a minimum wage job to a good-paying profession. Leave him alone. He really wants to be a musician anyway (not that we ever hear him play or see any musical instruments in their apartment.)
But we do see a tripod. Oopsie!
So one morning Arthur decides he’s had enough and quits after an encounter with another awful woman named Mildread [sic] who has an insatiable thirst for coffee and wants her paper cup filled ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP.
After an unsuccessful job (and apartment?) hunt as well as a very unfortunate male stripper audition, Arthur decides he should go back to school. But where would he get the money to pay for tuition? (I dunno, for starters, maybe the money they just threw away on the non-trip to Hawaii?) He decides to ask his long-estranged brother Victor for a handout.
As you can probably tell by this shot of Victor, he is a totally straight, anti-homosexual devotee of the Lord Jesus Christ. Victor is not happy about Arthur’s lifestyle to say the least and feels he is being called by God to “cure” him. BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.
I’m going to stop here with the play-by-play synopsis because this is one of those special disasters where the less the viewer knows going into it, the better. I just wanted to give you an idea of some of the nonsense to expect. Also, I’ve only told you the lead-up to the bigger events of this film, the calm before the eagles and vultures attacked, so to speak. Just when you think you know where this thing is going, it takes a TURN. What seems like a good-intentioned, if horribly executed, message drama about the struggles of the LGBT community (keep in mind, this was made in 2002), is really something so…much…more. Insane is too light a word.
And I will leave it at that for you to discover on your own (or better yet, with as many people and as much alcohol as you can assemble.)
I think we can all agree that 2016 has been the absolute worst. We’ve lost so many legends –Bowie, Prince, John Glenn, Abe Vigoda. The presidential election was an embarrassing circus that resulted in our country being more divided than ever and many fearful for the future.
For me personally, the final Fuck You of 2016 was the loss of my very best friend of 15 years, the greatest, smartest, sweetest Chihuahua who ever lived, my beloved Pancho. Anyone who has had to say goodbye to a non-human family member knows that it is one of the hardest things to go through.
It was about a week after losing Pancho that I somehow stumbled on Ben & Arthur while looking for a temporary escape from my funk. I don’t know how I never managed to hear of this one before then as I am always on the hunt for a good disasterpiece, but I’m so grateful for the fateful timing because I came across it exactly when I needed it. For 85 minutes, I had a temporary reprieve from my sadness as I sat in complete and utter shock and bewilderment at what I was viewing, my mind unable to drift away from the simultaneous confusion and amusement.
So for anyone dealing with anything tough or just fed up with this werald, I completely and wholeheartedly recommend this movie to take your mind off things if even for a little while.
I’m also going to toast Sam Mraovich for putting himself, his story, his naked ass (of course he does) and most likely, his apartment out there. I’m not being sarcastic when I give credit to the Tommy Wiseaus, James Nguyens, Neil Breens, and John DeHarts of the world. They each have a rare quality, some call it ambition, some call it delusion- I call it ambilusion, and it drives them to never give up. I, for one, am most grateful for that.
And somehow, Mraovich managed to get a distribution deal. There was a time (back in the early 2000s) when a person could walk into a Blockbuster Video and rent Ben & Arthur! (NOTE: These days it’s even easier)
As I stated several times, NOTHING MAKES SENSE. Not one character acts or speaks in a way that is remotely realistic. Subplots and characters are introduced and then dropped. Even subplots involving murder! I’m going to steal a quote from our editor Henry J. Fromage because it describes this film better than I can ever put into words. [On Mraovich:] “I just think his basic competence vs the demands of making an actual movie are like trying to catch pudding in a colander… he was bound to miss most of it, and in the most hilarious way possible.”
Because of this, so many times while viewing this movie, I wondered if I was being played. Maybe this was intentional or some kind of satire? But no, this is a 100% completely earnest attempt at a drama/romance/thriller.
I’m just gonna leave this here to give you an idea of what you’re in for. Here is that aforementioned male stripper audition scene.
Oh there’s a love scene. Do you think Mraovich would have cast someone who looks like Jamie Brett Gabel (Fun Fact: this is his first and only movie) without including one?
The tender moment is reminiscent of a classic movie. I will give you one guess based on this screenshot:
Take my lunch awaaay
Yes, Mraovich pays homage to Top Gun with a nearly shot-for-shot recreation of that famous love scene. And it’s as sexy as you’d imagine.
Totally Straight Victor belongs to a church. Rather he belongs to a child’s drawing of a church. Mraovich overcame his lack of money, permits, and filming locations and built his own church set with cardboard, crayons, and fingerpaints.
Hey wait, I know that artist!
Let’s talk about the church some more. Just most churches in general. I’m not a very religious person but I am fairly certain most churches do not condone murder (It is one of those commandments, after all), let alone have a hitman on the ready. I don’t even think Westboro Baptist Church does. Also, I don’t know of any churches that would ex-communicate a member for having a relative that is gay. (Well, maybe Westboro on that one.)
That’s really not how churches work, right?
But in the world of Ben & Arthur that is exactly how Our Lady of the Holy Cardboard and Tissue Paper works. In the film’s one, shining moment of an actual, realistic response Arthur asks Victor why he doesn’t just join a different church.
Just when you think this film couldn’t get any more wackadoo, along comes the grand finale of Arthur and Victor’s standoff.
Warning: you will never, ever, EVVVEEERRR be able to scrub those images from your brain. You will also never be able to enjoy Scarface again without thinking of this movie the same way you will never be able to enjoy Top Gun again.
Drop what you are doing and watch this RIGHT FREAKING NOW.
Ben & Arthur (2002) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Sam Mraovich’s name appears in the opening credits
Take a Drink: “Let’s Go!” packing montage
Take a Drink: whenever Ben is shirtless
Take a Drink: for every Arthur hissyfit
Take a Drink: whenever Arthur runs
Take a Drink: for each of Victor’s pets
Take a Drink: Private Investigator Bieber
Take a Drink: Cardboard Church
Take a Drink: for the beautiful Vermont palm trees
Take a Drink: whenever anyone has a gun
Take a Drink: for Mildread [sic], the true star of this movie
Take a Drink: every time they open a door without looking through the peephole to make sure it isn’t someone trying to kill them
Take a Drink: every time a gun is fired
Take a Drink: holy water recipe
Take a Drink: “I record everything!”
Do a Shot: Visible tripod
Do a Shot: DOMESTIC ABUSE!
Do a Shot: MURDER!
Do a shot: ARSON!
Do a Shot: if/when you spot the Top Gun ripoff
Do a Shot: if/when you spot the Scarface ripoff
Chug: during the last ten minutes (Trust me, you will need it)
For further reading, here is Sam Mraovich’s advice to independent filmmakers (he is an expert after all)
Also check out a recent interview in which he seems to have gained some clarity and a sense of humor about the whole thing. So good on you, man!
Sadly, it looks like Mraovich has retired from filmmaking, and is now a hairdresser/singer (which, surprise, he isn’t bad!). But we’ll always have Ben & Arthur.