Strange and more than a little sad, “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” – a documentary about the actor’s adventures in wrestling – derives most of its strength from the discomfort associated with watching it. As the son of a showbiz family, the fact that Arquette is reduced to this cry for attention more than anything reflects the enticing lure of the spotlight.
For those who haven’t studied Arquette’s history, he actually “won” the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 2000, as part of a stunt for the movie “Ready to Rumble.” That moment angered the legions that take wrestling seriously, which makes Arquette’s decision to return to the ring look like an act of desperation.
Notably, Arquette and his current spouse, Christina McLarty Arquette, who produced the documentary, speak frankly about how his acting career has dried up. The latter references an old magazine cover that featured him alongside a number of other performers (Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith among them) who went on to become much bigger stars.
“I think David has a lot of sadness around the fact that he could have been that,” she says, adding that he “became typecast as a goofball.”
“I’m just kind of sick of being a joke,” Arquette chimes in, before willingly enduring additional indignities in his efforts to get back into wrestling, which includes showing up at a sparsely attended backyard event and traveling to Mexico to train.
Directed by David Darg and Price James, the documentary provides a fairly good introduction to Arquette’s life – with three kids, and three basset hounds – and extended orbit, including interviews with ex-wife Courteney Cox (with whom he’ll reunite in an upcoming “Scream” sequel) and acting sisters Patricia and Rosanna, all of whom sound mystified about why he’s subjecting his then-47-year-old body to this punishment.
Granted, wrestling operates as a scripted soap opera, but even with all the artifice and exaggeration attached to the “sport,” flinging one’s body around can still exact a physical toll.
The film’s centerpiece thus comes from its ringside access to what became a much-covered 2018 incident, in which Arquette participated in a “death match” that left him hospitalized with what look to be pretty harrowing injuries. (He later put out a statement saying he didn’t fully understand the nature of the event, to be filed under let the brawler beware.)
Still, it’s ultimately unclear what exactly to make of the film, thanks to the Arquettes’ involvement in its production, since the actor would likely be held up as an object of sympathy, curiosity and ridicule in any independent examination of his wrestling connection that didn’t so obviously have his blessing.
“What is the point of all this?” McLarty Arquette – again, one of the documentary’s producers – asks toward the end, citing the ostensible risk to her husband’s health.
It’s a legitimate question, and other than grasping for a few more minutes of fame, one that “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” never comes close to answering.
“You Cannot Kill David Arquette” will premiere in drive-in theaters and on demand beginning Aug. 28.