Arthur (Sam Mraovich) is phoned up by his live-in boyfriend Ben (Jamie Brett Gabel) with exciting news, but the battery dies before he can tell him what it is, though he does manage to convey the information that it's on the news. Arthur switches on the radio just at the point the source of Ben’s excitement is announced: gay marriage is to be legalised in Hawaii! He is beside himself with joy and immediately arranges a couple of plane tickets to that state, and the couple are packed and ready to go when Ben notices the headline in the newspaper: the judge has somehow ordered a stay on his own ruling. Arthur is furious - but you don't know how furious he can get.
One problem with the democratisation of cinema is not so much that anyone can broadcast their opinion on film via the internet, so you can get someone who doesn't understand a movie on effectively equal bearing with a professional expert on the subject, but that the technology moved further than that and into the realm of moviemaking itself. Now, just because camcorders were now widely available by the nineties doesn't mean that their owners were suddenly budding Steven Speilbergs with all this talent at their disposal, and audiences still preferred a degree of professionalism in their entertainment, but it did mean that anyone with the wherewithal could succeed.
"Succeed" being a relative term, but when the likes of The Room or Birdemic achieved a cinema release and picked up a following, however ironic in their enjoyment, it seemed there was now an open field for even the least talented, the most deluded, to broadcast their magnum opus to the globe. Ben & Arthur was one such example, barely a home movie, that somehow secured distribution, not only on DVD but as a theatrical release - imagine taking a trip to the local picture palace and being faced with this abomination. When the opening titles, played out under a tinny version of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer (to make you think of The Sting?!), credited Mr Mraovich no less than eleven times, you knew trouble lay ahead.
But really, was Ben & Arthur any more ludicrous than any low budget enterprise with ideas way above its station? Usually with that kind of project, the results were stultifying in their boredom, but every so often there would be a work touched with lunacy where there was nobody to tell their creator, look, this isn't a very good idea. Auteur Mraovich was one such creator, starting out with a bit of an agenda on gay marriage, but then turning his important subject into an unintentional farce by overexaggerating the issues facing homosexual couples in America, to whit: the fact that Arthur has a Christian brother, Victor (gay porn star Michael Haboush), determined force him to renounce his gay ways so he can be reaccepted into church, which has banned Victor for having a gay sibling. His methods are as suspect as the logic in the movie.
Everyone here is simmering on the brink of violence, as if that is the only way anyone can see out of their problems - Ben even punches Arthur in the face at one point, and they are in love. Ben's wife shows up with a gun to persuade him to stay with her (he's kept her a secret for five years, apparently) but the tour de force arrives when Victor, whose holy potion his brother refuses to drink, places Arthur in the position where he must commit murder and arson to ensure his dedication to homosexuality continues. Any hope for audience sympathy must have flown out of the window some time before these events, but the madness doesn't stop there, with Mraovich under the mistaken belief that baptisms are conducted in the nude, that weddings are conducted with one priest and nobody else (he just says that's fine and you're done, apparently), not even guests, that anti-gay disapproving relatives are closet cases, and that we genuinely wanted to see him naked (always a sign of an out of control auteur - they show off in the buff). It was true enough that this was wretched enough to be funny, but the sense that you were watching someone truly embarrass themselves, and the hatewatchers relishing this, made for a huge cringe.