- Movie Rating -

Ishtar (1987)

| May 16, 1987

I’d rather eat a urinal cake then watch this movie again.

What is to be said about Ishtar?  It’s terrible.  As a comedy it isn’t funny and an action picture it is as dull as a beige room.  Were it made by incompetent people, I might not have even bothered to review it.  But it wasn’t.  It stars Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most intelligent people working in the business.  It was written and directed by Elaine May who made two very good movies A New Leaf and The Heartbreak Kid.  She also wrote Heaven Can Wait.  What happened?  Were they so mythologized in the business that someone thought that these talents could handle anything?

As I say, were it created by lesser talents, I could dismiss it without asking so many questions, as I’ve routinely dismissed the Police Academy movies and the Porky’s series.  But I was asking a lot of questions during Ishtar because this is one of the limpest and most puzzling failures in recent memory.
It’s a mess.  It is slow, dull, witless and goes no place fast.  May pushes Beatty and Hoffman through a script that feels unfinished. 

The story is, I suppose, an attempt to capture the spirit of the old Hope and Crosby Road Pictures.  Beatty and Hoffman play musicians with zero talent.  We know this because we have to sit through several of their terrible performances, watching good actors humiliate themselves.  Their agent gets them a gig in Morocco and once they get there they become pawns in a confrontation between The United States and Libia over a tiny spot of land called Ishtar.  Of course, this should lead to a story of political intrigue but it doesn’t.  It’s message about artist being truth-tellers and politicians being lying crooks is washed out in a series of tired gags involving disobedient camels and Arab stereotypes.What is it all for if the action and the comedy and the real-life commentary mean nothing?  This is a lifeless movie made without purpose.

I sat through the movie trying to find something, anything to pull from this material and I could never get on board.  Maybe the best idea might have been to simply get out of the way of Beatty and Hoffman and May, give them the $40,000,000 that is cost to make this movie, lock them in a room and force them to write a better screenplay.  Give them a weekend, a week, a month.  I’ll wait.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy