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DUSTIN HOFFMAN & WARREN BEATTY FAMOUSLY BOMB IN 'ISHTAR'

Year of Defeat: 1987
In one scene from the famously infamous 1987 mega-flop ISHTAR, a shy and introverted Warren Beatty admits that, in order to get women, he wished he looked more like Dustin Hoffman: which is funnier than anything else in the movie...

Both are straight men without comic relief, and there isn't a touch of humor to be found: Especially not in the muddled screenplay written by director Elaine May and centering on two awful lounge singers, Lyle Rogers and Chuck Clark, who don’t seem realistic enough to be genuine failures: Hoffman’s Clark is the most confident and intrepid, and gullible. Once the duo are sent to Ishtar for a few low-rent gigs, he quickly gets in hot water, falling for a burqa-clad yet still noticeably hot Isabelle Adjani as Shirra, who wants to free her people from tyranny, and is basically using Clark for her own needs, transporting an important map that everyone wants: Especially Charles Grodin’s nefariously polite Jim Harrison, a CIA Agent pulling Clark in another direction…

The Hindenburg, The Edsel...
A subliminal (though not very subtle) villainous representative of the Reagan administration, Grodin's character never admits to actually being Right Wing; but if you added up how many times he refers to his enemy, Shirra, as “Left,” you’d run out of fingers and toes, making this a legitimate political comedy... That's the attempt, anyway. 

Ishtar Score: **
The first twenty minutes provide the most guilty pleasure. Following an off-key venue prologue, the two Big Apple losers meet in an awkward flashback, writing songs together on a Casio keyboard – one tune in particular called DANGEROUS BUSINESS (which would have made a better film title), coincidentally foretelling their misadventures to come: As a team, Beatty and Hoffman act like two old chums showing off at a party for their rich friends: But theater audiences weren’t so patient or understanding…

For a movie with such an immense budget, very little happens. The city scenes pan out in a series of jumbled edits, and once the duo reach the desert… riding a blind camel and eventually squaring off against a CIA helicopter… the film seems both dragged out and rushed at the same time.

Despite being a HEAVEN'S GATE style punchline for cinematic catastrophes, ISHTAR isn't as utterly horrible as the reputation implies... it's just plain dull, which kind of makes it worse. Experiencing two big stars flailing around without a coherent plot is embarrassing. If the entire story centered merely on two talentless clowns trying to write a decent song in New York, it would be a lot more enjoyable: At least they (and the audience) would have something to strive for.
Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty in the main poster image, and if it's one thing ISHTAR has it cool artwork
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