4.3/10
9,515
138 user 46 critic

Ishtar (1987)

PG-13 | | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 15 May 1987 (USA)
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ON DISC
Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the C.I.A., the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime.

Director:

Elaine May

Writer:

Elaine May
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Warren Beatty ... Lyle Rogers
Dustin Hoffman ... Chuck Clarke
Isabelle Adjani ... Shirra Assel
Charles Grodin ... Jim Harrison
Jack Weston ... Marty Freed
Tess Harper ... Willa
Carol Kane ... Carol
Aharon Ipalé ... Emir Yousef
Fijad Hageb Fijad Hageb ... Abdul (as Fuad Hageb)
David Margulies ... Mr. Clarke
Rose Arrick Rose Arrick ... Mrs. Clarke
Julie Garfield Julie Garfield ... Dorothy
Cristine Rose ... Siri Darma (as Christine Rose)
Robert V. Girolami Robert V. Girolami ... Bartender (as Bob Girolami)
Abe Kroll Abe Kroll ... Mr. Thomopoulos
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Storyline

Two terrible lounge singers get booked to play a gig in a Moroccan hotel but somehow become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the Emir of Ishtar, and the rebels trying to overthrow his regime. Written by Stern

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 May 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Иштар See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,331,817, 17 May 1987, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$14,375,181
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Interpersonal difficulties from Morocco continued in post-production. Elaine May was supposed to direct actors when they looped their lines in a recording studio, but sometimes left the job to Warren Beatty or one of the editors. Most of those absences were in sessions with Adjani, who was required to lower her voice since her character had to pass as a boy for most of the film. This strained her relationship with Beatty even more. See more »

Goofs

AS the helicopter lowers to give the CIA agent a level shot at the duo, his wood stock, single shot, bolt action rifle turns into a black automatic weapon with a banana clip. See more »

Quotes

Chuck Clarke: Stupid-ass camel! He'd rather sit there and die!
Lyle Rogers: You know, I kind of admire that.
Chuck Clarke: Me too.
See more »

Alternate Versions

UK cinema and video versions were cut by 8 secs by the BBFC to remove uses of the word 'fuck' in order for the film to receive a PG rating. The cuts were restored in 2004 to the 15-rated DVD release. See more »

Connections

Featured in Best of the Worst: The Star Wars Holiday Special (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Wardrobe of Love
Lyrics and Music by Paul Williams
Performed by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman
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User Reviews

 
Its bad rep is undeserved
7 February 2000 | by krumskiSee all my reviews

For the most part, films that bomb badly usually deserve to, but Ishtar is a curious exception. For the life of me, I cannot understand the critical drubbing it took upon its initial release. Admittedly, it did go way over budget, and none of that opulence is visible on screen (the film has a murky and washed out look to it, and its sets and locales are not particularly impressive) but this is a comedy after all, and so lives or dies based on the quality of its jokes and situations, not its production design. And on that level Ishtar not only gets by but succeeds wonderfully.

Beatty and Hoffman play two dim bulbs who fancy themselves songwriters and pair up in an attempt to become the next Simon and Garfunkel. The tortured lyrics these guys come up with must be heard to be believed, and the scenes showing them working on their songs or presenting their act to audiences are some of the most screamingly funny ever committed to film. If for no other reason than to see these scenes, you should rent the movie.

Perhaps the film might have been funnier (and better accepted by critics) if it had focused exclusively on the show business dreams of its stars. However, early on the two get a booking to play an extended gig in Morocco (that alone should tell you how bad they are); they get waylaid in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Ishtar where they become inadvertently roped into a shady CIA dominated plot having something to do with rebellions, arm shipments and military coups. It's all rather hokey and confusing - but deliberately so, in the best screwball sense. And through it all Hoffman and Beatty truly shine: the bafflement on their faces and in their gestures as they are shepherded from place to place as dupes in a plot they don't understand is just priceless. Who would have thought that two such intelligent actors could play stupid so convincingly (either one of them, for example, would have made a preferable sidekick to Jim Carrey than Jeff Daniels was in Dumb and Dumber - his performance showed all the strain of a bright guy trying to force himself into a pose of ineptitude). Even more, who would have imagined that two such prima donnas could put their egos aside to work off each other so well and become a truly great comedy TEAM? No matter how crazy the plot may get, Hoffman and Beatty are never less than a delight as they hold down the center of the film.

Oh yeah, and if that weren't enough, there's also the treat of the wonderfully droll and deadpan Charles Grodin as the CIA operative in Ishtar. He's the villain of the piece, but his beautifully underplayed exasperation at the exploits of the two stars makes you like him almost as much as you do them.

So what are you waiting for? If you like a good, well done comedy with sharp performances and a kooky atmosphere, check out Ishtar today. Don't allow all those sourpuss, stone-faced critics to ruin your fun.


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