Ac­tor grap­ples for re­spect in odd­ball doc­u­men­tary

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - RICHARD ROEPER MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­ | @RichardERo­eper

David Ar­quette is wear­ing an elab­o­rate pur­ple getup and is va­p­ing while atop a horse when he says:

“I’m just kind of sick of be­ing a joke, to be hon­est with you.”

One can’t help but laugh at this scene in the charm­ing, odd­ball doc­u­men­tary “You Can­not Kill David Ar­quette” — but we’re laugh­ing with him be­cause he al­ways seems to be in on the joke. And when we’re not laugh­ing, we’re wor­ried about him, be­cause Ar­quette of­ten has been his own worst en­emy. We’re root­ing for him to get it to­gether and live a long, full life.

As Ar­quette notes in can­did fash­ion, he de­railed a promis­ing ca­reer in the early 2000s by tak­ing ev­ery job that came his way, act­ing like a goof­ball in pub­lic — and be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional wrestler and ac­tu­ally win­ning the WCW cham­pi­onship as part of a gim­micky sto­ry­line.

Cut to nearly 20 years later. With few act­ing jobs on the hori­zon, Ar­quette comes to the ques­tion­able con­clu­sion he can re­vive his ca­reer by re­turn­ing to wrestling — but this time, even though he’s in his late 40s, he’s go­ing to take it se­ri­ously, train hard and try to win the re­spect of the wrestling world.

Di­rec­tors Price James and David Darg frame the story like a sports movie, with train­ing se­quences right out of “Rocky III,” some snarling vil­lains and the oblig­a­tory ro­man­tic in­ter­est, i.e., Ar­quette’s wife Christina, who in ar­guably the most bizarre scene in a bizarre film dresses up like the late Miss El­iz­a­beth, a pro wrestling fig­ure and the ob­ject of David’s ob­ses­sion. Also ap­pear­ing in the film is David’s ex, Courteney Cox, who notes, “We met on ‘Scream 1,’ we hated each other on ‘Scream 2,’ we got mar­ried on ‘Scream 3,’ we got di­vorced on ‘Scream 4.’ ” (David and Courteney have re­mained close as they share par­ent­ing of their 16-year-old daugh­ter, Coco, who at first is mor­ti­fied by her pops be­com­ing a pro wrestler but is later seen in the stands, flip­ping the bird to his op­po­nent.)

Some of the scenes in “You Can­not Kill David Ar­quette” seem as con­trived as any “re­al­ity” TV show. But there’s no doubt­ing Ar­quette’s sin­cere de­sire to learn the craft of wrestling, to get into shape, to re­sus­ci­tate his ca­reer, to make his fam­ily proud.

We’re still root­ing for the guy.

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