Ishtar [1987]

At the time of its release in 1987, this Elaine May production was bandied about as one of the worst films of the decade. It was nominated for three Razzie Awards that year--Worst Picture, Screenplay, Direction--but it still was not the nadir detractors claimed it to be. (Remember, that was the year Norman Mailer's self-indulgence spilled all over the screen in Tough Guys Don't Dance.) If this comedy had been made by unknowns, it would have simply faded into the obscurity it deserves. The fuss came about because May squandered much talent and a ridiculously large budget, rumored to exceed $40 million, returning less than half of that in ticket sales. Two artistically challenged lounge musicians (Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman) are jettisoned out of the States by their agent, who finds them a gig in Morocco. En route, they become pawns in an international power play between the CIA, the mythical emir of Ishtar, and upstarts hoping to overthrow the emir's regime. There are some humorous bits, such as when Hoffman and Beatty so badly perform their horrible ditties that audiences are left appalled. Most of the time however, we are the ones lulled into a near daze by a hokey script and boorish jokes about blind camels. If Abbott and Costello had made this flick, it might have worked. --Rochelle O'Gorman

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