THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! ‘Ishtar’ is Misunderstood, Doesn’t Earn Its Reputation

GameStop, Inc.

isht-1

Tellin’ the truth can be dangerous business
Honest and popular don’t go hand in hand
If you admit you can play the accordion
No one will hire you for a rock ‘n’ roll band – Rogers and Clarke

Growing up, Ishtar was synonymous with awful. There was a Far Side strip that featured Hell’s video store, well in-stock with nothing but copies of Ishtar. In 1995, when Waterworld was on its way to becoming a fiasco, it was dubbed the next Ishtar. While not a perfect film, Ishtar isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests. It had a bloated budget and various production issues, but the film features plenty of silly laughs, while providing a commentary on the quest for celebrity and American black-ops. Its failures are financial, not of content.

Two songwriters, Lyle Rogers (Warren Beatty) and Chuck Clarke (Dustin Hoffman), are long on ambition and short on talent. As hard as they try, they can’t catch a break. Their ambitions in life and love are met with failure, and the New York is unkind to their plight. They are given a choice by their manager, Marty Freed (Jack Weston), to take a residency gig in Honduras or Morocco. Due to the roaming death squads in Honduras, the two hard-luck, would-be singers take the gig in Morocco. Upon their arrival they encounter Shirra Assel (Isabelle Adjani), a revolutionary who seeks a recently discovered ancient map that may help her overthrow the government of Ishtar. Chuck meets Jim Thompson (Charles Grodin), a friendly American who buys Chuck dinner. During their dinner, Jim informs Chuck that he’s a CIA agent, and convinces Chuck to keep his eyes open on behalf of the agency. Chuck and Lyle are as good at international intrigue as they are at songwriting. In the end, the duo are almost killed by the CIA, and are able to get the agency to back their debut album.

The songs of Rogers and Clarke are pitch perfect in their awfulness, and Beatty and Hoffman’s inability to carry a tune makes them all the better. Composed by Paul Williams, Dangerous Business has a ring of truth to it, as well as absurdity. One of the funnier gags in the film involves Chuck Clarke working solo at a restaurant. While an elderly couple celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary, Chuck serenades them with a sad love song about death, a dying man bequeathing his love to his widow. It’s a poor song performed poorly at an inopportune time.

isht-3

The film was criticized for placing Beatty and Hoffman against type, Beatty playing a shy little man and Hoffman playing the arrogant ladies’ man. While not the best performance of either’s career, they’re nowhere near as bad as their reputation suggests. In many respects, they’re supposed to be bad. The unsung hero of the film is Charles Grodin. Blending arrogance and incompetence, Grodin presents the CIA as never really seen on film before, a great comic villain.

Ishtar also carries with it a very strong political undercurrent, writer-director Elaine May has crafted an homage to the Road to… films of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but with an anti-interventionalist message. This plays out on a larger and small scale in the film. The CIA’s meddling in international affairs causes havoc and chaos in the region, dictators are propped up and people repressed. When Chuck begins doing work for the CIA, it causes a rift in between himself and his songwriting partner. As illustrated in one scene where spies from every country are spying on one another in an outdoor market place, everyone is watching each other without any real clue as to what they’re doing. It’s a strong statement against the American foreign policy under Nixon and Reagan.

Ishtar has a long way to go before fully shaking its reputation. Elaine May, a two-time Academy Award nominee, has never directed another film. May would go on to write two films for Mike Nichols, The Birdcage and Primary Colors, though she’s commonly referred to being in movie jail. Oddly enough, Beatty and Hoffman only appeared in a handful of films in the ‘80s, and would briefly reunite in 1990’s Dick Tracy, directed by Beatty. It’s important to note to what extent Ishtar is failure of budgeting and planning, not of the actual movie. There was no real reason to shoot a light comedy in Morocco, and the sums paid to Beatty and Hoffman are still exorbitant to this day. There’s no real reason that a comedy of this mold should’ve cost what it did. That being said, the charms of Ishtar are greater than its flaws. It’s a sly piece of misunderstood entertainment. Even if you don’t laugh at the backwards stylings of Rogers and Clarke, you’ll laugh at the moments of misunderstanding and international intrigue. Bad music and a blind camel – what’s not to like?

//

Anytime Costumes

Leave a Reply

FanboyNation
Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
‘Wednesday’ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

‘Wednesday‘ Comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, from Warner...

Toy Lei Talks About Playing Auntie Victoria in ‘The Brothers Sun’ – Interview Rewind

Asian-American actress Toy Lei stars as Auntie Victoria in the new...

Marcus Massey Talks ‘Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2’ – Interview

Marcus Massey Shares his Wisdom as Owl in ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and...

Event News Event Reviews
‘MJ the Musical’ Chronicles the Life of the ‘King of Pop’ Running at Segerstrom – Review

‘MJ the Musical‘ is the Ultimate Stage Adaptation, Chronicling the life...

Aiden Sinclair and Michael Rangel Talks ’57 Ghosts’ Aboard the Queen Mary Séance

Aiden Sinclair and Apparitionist, Michael Rangel Discuss their new Theatrical Séance...

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open ‘Slashers Axe Throwing’ – Interview

Luke and Madison Rhoades Open Orange County’s first ever horror themed...

Automotives Football MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Olympic Runner Colleen Quigley ‘On The Road to Paris’

Team USA Olympic Runner, Colleen Quigley is On The Road to...

Paralympian Swimmer Ahalya Lettenberger On The Road to Paris

Team USA Paralympian Swimmer, Ahalya Lettenberger is On The Road to...

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre – Interview

Ultimate Women of Wrestling Comes to the Globe Theatre on Sunday,...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse, battle at the Infernal gate pt 2

Oh Bruh, you did NOT just quote "Predator"!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – Battle at the Infernal Gate pt 1

NO NATURAL PREDATORS!

Fantoy Comics Presents: Harry Potter and the Pahrump Apocalypse – SID SPEAKS!

"We Demons! Let's go CRUNK on this punk-ass world!"

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs & Sketches’ – Interview

Joe Kwaczala Talks About His new Comedy Album ‘Funny Songs &...

Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her Career in the Arts

First Generation Assyrian-Chaldean, Songwriter and Poet, Tamara Mechael Talks About Her...

Louden Swain Headlining Los Angeles Show at The Echo

Press Release – Louden Swain are headlining Los Angeles show at...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League Gameplay Trailer

The first Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League gameplay trailer was revealed during...

Wonder Woman Game
Wonder Woman Game Announced By DC and WB Games

Wonder Woman game will feature the iconic hero in a 3rd...

MultiVersus
MultiVersus brings Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny, and More

MultiVersus is bringing Shaggy, Harley Quinn, Jake, Batman, Arya Stark, Bugs Bunny,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Gary Morgenstein Talks ‘A Dugout to Peace’ the Final Installment of his Trilogy

Gary Morgenstein Talks About ‘A Dugout to Peace‘ the final installment...

Chris Clews Is ‘Raised on the 80s’ and Shares Those Life Lessons

Chris Clews was ‘Raised on the 80s‘ and Shares Those Life...

Roye Okupe Brings Authentic African Representation to HBO Max and Cartoon Network

Nigerian-American, Roye Okupe brings authentic African representation to HBO Max and...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand Demo

The new ‘Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand‘ is ready to ship...

Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the ‘Good Flour’

Canadian Super Chef Jen Peters and Matthew Clayton Bring us the...

Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide
Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

The Pop Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is now available to help...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Episode 38: Hamid Rahmanian

Join Whitney Grace as she speaks with artist Hamid Rahmanian, who...

No Preview
Toon-In Talk Episode 37: Niki Smith

Whitney Grace interviews graphic novel writer and artist Niki Smith about...

Toon-In Talk Episode 36: Rob Paulsen

Rob Paulsen takes some time from his busy voice acting schedule...