It's inevitable that when a film costs upwards of $40 million, stars two of the biggest names in Hollywood (Hoffman and Beatty), and is directed by a person (May) notorious for her wasteful shooting methods, the result will be savaged by industry insiders and film critics. An incredible box
office loser and, to be frank, far from great, ISHTAR is still not nearly as awful as many would have it.
Struggling songwriters Chuck Clarke (Hoffman) and Lyle Rogers (Beatty) have known each other for only a few months but have formed a strong bond. Despite the pathetic but honestly expressive songs they bang out, entertainment agent Marty Freed (Weston) offers them a booking--in Morocco. On their
way, they get mixed up in a civil war in the fictitious "Ishtar" and become involved with a goofy CIA agent (Grodin).
For all the bad press ISHTAR received, it does have a certain odd charm. Cast against type, Beatty and Hoffman do their darndest to mimic Hope and Crosby. The biggest problem is that any attempted subtlety is swamped by May's bid to turn the film into an epic adventure story. The talented Adjani
doesn't help much, doing little more than float around in loose-fitting garments. The hopelessly banal lyrics to the songs written by the Beatty and Hoffman characters can be hilarious if you're in the mood. ("Telling the truth is a dangerous business/Honest and popular don't go hand-in-hand/If
you admit that you play the accordian/You'll never make it a rock and roll band.") Yes, it's that kind of movie.
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