Ben & Arthur
Ben & Arthur is a 2002 American romantic drama film written, directed, produced, edited, scored by and starring Sam Mraovich, distributed by Ariztical Entertainment. The film concerns a recently married gay couple who face opposition from one of the partners' brother, who plots to murder them after being ostracized by his church. The film was a box office bomb, having earned only $40,000 as of 2011. It is considered by some to be one of the worst movies ever made.
Ben (Jamie Brett Gabel) and Arthur (Sam Mraovich) are a gay couple eagerly awaiting the legalization of gay marriage in Hawaii so that they may travel there for their dream wedding. After a news bulletin that a judge has made a ruling that will allow gay weddings to take place, the men purchase plane tickets and prepare to depart; however, before they leave, they discover that a challenge to the judge's ruling has resulted in a suspension of gay marriage in Hawaii, pending further judicial review. Ben takes advantage of the delay to inform Arthur that he is actually already married to a woman named Tammy (Julie Belknap), whom he wed out of societal pressure before he came to terms with his homosexuality and from whom he has been separated since before he and Arthur met. Arthur becomes angry, but decides to stay with Ben anyway. Shortly thereafter, Ben contacts Tammy, finally comes out to her, and asks her for a divorce.
After the disappointment of their near-wedding, Ben and Arthur resume their daily life, working in a small diner in Los Angeles, where Ben is a dishwasher and Arthur is a waiter. Although Ben—a former nurse who quit to pursue a music career—enjoys the manual labor and hours, Arthur has grown impatient with servitude and putting up with needy customers. One night, Arthur decides to quit and go back to college, so that he can earn an MBA and open up his own sex shop. Although the loss of income to the household means that Ben will have to quit and return to being a nurse, he agrees to do so in order to help Arthur pursue his dream.
To finance his education, Arthur tracks down his estranged brother, Victor (Michael Haboush), whom he hasn't spoken to for seven years. Victor is a religious fanatic who believes that Arthur's homosexuality is a sign of demonic possession, although Victor himself appears to be flamboyantly gay—even greeting Arthur in a pink, feathered bathrobe. Although Victor lashes out at Arthur for his failure to turn straight, he nonetheless offers to give Arthur money for college if he will bring Ben by the apartment and allow him to evangelize.
While Arthur considers Victor's offer, he and Ben hire an attorney (Gina Aguilar) to consult for advice on getting married. Despite Ben's still being legally married to Tammy, the attorney counsels them to travel to Vermont, be wed in a civil union, and then return to California and attempt to be recognized as members of a domestic partnership. The two take her advice, and are wed in a private ceremony in Vermont.
Suspicious of Arthur's lack of response to his monetary offer, Victor hires a private investigator to tail Ben and Arthur. The PI tells Victor about the men's marriage and their attempts to get their union recognized in California. In response, Victor follows the attorney home one evening and shoots her to death in her apartment's parking garage. At the same time, Tammy arrives at Arthur's apartment and tries to force Ben to take her back at gunpoint, but Ben successfully disarms her and throws her out.
Following their attorney's death, Ben and Arthur agree to come to Victor's apartment. Rather than evangelize, Victor and another congregant from his church, Stan (Richard Hitchcock), lash out at the couple with homophobic insults and slurs. When Ben and Arthur leave, Victor and Stan start making plans to exorcise the couple by feeding them Holy Water that Stan has cooked in his kitchen. The plot fails, and Ben and Arthur leave town to enjoy a honeymoon in Hawaii and allow the tension with Victor to blow over. In Ben and Arthur's absence, Victor is summoned to church by his priest, Father Rabin (Bill Hindley). Rabin informs him that he is being excommunicated because the congregation does not want the relative of a gay person attending church services, fearful that he will bring them bad karma and negative energy. A dejected Victor reaches out to Stan for help, who helps Victor come to an agreement with Father Rabin that Victor will be permitted to rejoin the church if he successfully murders Ben and Arthur. To this end, they hire a hitman named Scott (Nick Bennet), whom Father Rabin has apparently used to kill gay people in the past.
When Ben and Arthur return from Hawaii, Ben is gay bashed by Victor and Scott; the attack fails to kill him, and Ben is hospitalized. Suspecting his brother's involvement, Arthur breaks into Victor's apartment and taps his phone. After intercepting a call implicating Victor and Father Rabin, Arthur goes to Victor's church, chloroforms Father Rabin, and then murders him by burning the church down with him still inside.
After Ben has sufficiently recovered, Arthur takes him back home to their apartment. Deciding that the next attempt on the men's lives must be more drastic, Victor and Scott go Ben and Arthur's apartment with guns; at the last minute, Victor tells Scott that he wants to kill them himself and sends him away. Victor rings the apartment's doorbell, and when Ben answers, he fatally shoots him. He then forces Arthur to strip naked at gunpoint and performs an impromptu baptism in the bathtub.
While Victor contemplates what he's done, Arthur slips away and gets the gun that Ben had earlier confiscated from Tammy. Dressed in a bathrobe and briefs, a hysterical Arthur—reenacting one of the final scenes of Scarface—propositions Victor while holding him at gunpoint, accusing him of lashing out to try to combat his own repressed homosexuality. When Arthur fires a warning shot, Victor pulls out his own gun and shoots Arthur in the chest and back several times. In turn, Arthur manages to fire off a single shot which hits Victor in the forehead and instantly kills him, before Arthur dies of his own wounds.
Why It Sucks
- The film attempts to tackle issues around gay marriage, Christianity, coming out to your wife, and magical anti-gay potions, but ends up botching them.
- At one point, the characters are at a church, and it's just some guy's office with religious decorations and a cardboard cutout of a cross that's been colored in with a pencil taped to the walls.
- Very bad acting, especially from Sam Mraovich.
- The film is so cheap and poorly made to the point that it manages to make Plan 9 from Outer Space look good by comparison.
- Numerous geographical errors. Most notably, when Ben and Arthur go to the state of Vermont in order to be privately wed there, the state is shown to have palm trees despite Vermont having no palm trees in real life.
- Continuity errors. When Ben and Arthur fly to Vermont, they are shown to be on a airline. However, when the two decide to go back to California, they are shown flying back on a cargo airplane.
- Arthur himself is an unlikable protagonist. He is supposed to be a long-suffering gay person who keeps getting bullied by members of his own church and desperately wanting to get married to his partner Ben. However, due to bad writing, he instead comes across as an emotionally immature drama queen who even treats his partner Ben like crap when their bikes get stolen and punches him for it while Ben is apologizing about it and points out that they could have locked their bikes to prevent people from stealing it. Arthur also does morally questionable things like torching a priest alive (although it's said that he murdered gay people in the past, we never see this onscreen other than hiring Scott to murder Ben and Arthur) and trying to rape Victor just because he wouldn't accept his homosexuality. Even Ben, who is much more likable than Arthur, also has his own questionable moments as well.
The Only Redeeming Quality
- The movie is so hilariously awful that it's actually possible to enjoy it ironically.
- In 2014, Sam Mraovich admitted that he was ashamed of both the movie's general poor quality, and especially its anti-religious themes (due to Mraovich having become a Mormon in the intervening years). However, he did believe that the movie's message in support of gay marriage was a valid one, and added that he considered it a badge of honor to have made a legendarily bad movie.