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Ishtar (1987)

By Andy Markowitz | Posted

Yes, you read that right. With Town & Country slinking down the road to Bombsville, critics throughout the industry are dusting off their comparisons to Warren Beatty's previous comedic megaflop. Well, I'm here to tell you it's a bum rap: Ishtar is Not Bad. Shot down upon release as the last word in bloated vanity productions, Ishtar mellows at a distance of years and a downsizing to video-rental scale. On the small screen, it plays as a charmingly ramshackle road comedy featuring a couple of wryly self-mocking performances by Beatty and Dustin Hoffman as no-talent songwriters who get a booking in Morocco and land in the middle of Middle East intrigue. Writer/director Elaine May never quite finds the right balance between knockabout farce and Big Comedy Production, and once the movie lumbers into the desert the extras and gunfights and vast vistas shred the tissue-thin plot. But Ishtar is consistently amusing and occasionally hilarious, especially when the stars are riffing their way through Paul Williams' awful songs and May's loopy, off-hand banter, or when the once-great Charles Grodin shows up as a cheerfully rogue CIA agent. It's no Heaven Can Wait, but it's no Heaven's Gate either.

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