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Ishtar (1987)

PG-13 | | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 15 May 1987 (USA)
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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 | Plot 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

Gross USA:

$14,375,181

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$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

Filming lasted from October 1985 to April 1986. Columbia Pictures was originally going to release the film during the 1986 Christmas season, but because of post-production troubles, and other budgetary issues, the film was not yet ready for its original December 1986 scheduled release date. The film's release was postponed until May 1987 in order to give Columbia Pictures enough time to get budget and post-production issues sorted out before the film hit theaters. The delay in the film's release also spread a negative vibe, that ultimately helped contribute to its eventual overwhelming failure. See more »

Goofs

By the chandelier when Jim talks to the Emir. See more »

Quotes

Lyle Rogers: You didn't have to leave with me, now I've spoiled the night for you.
Chuck Clarke: You gotta give yourself a break! You've never been out with anyone but your wife.
Lyle Rogers: Yeah, but you gotta have the looks, Chuck. I mean, you walk into a place like that and girls just want ya, ya know, ya got that kinda face. Kinda mean lookin' but with character. And the way you walk, you can only do that with a small body! Didya ever hear of a big sports car? I mean, if I'd look like you -...
Chuck Clarke: Oh, you so idealize me!
See more »

Alternate Versions

The director's cut that was released on Blu-ray was 2 minutes shorter than the original theatrical release. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.8 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Carol
Lyrics and Music by Paul Williams
Performed by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman
See more »

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User Reviews

Often misunderstood and truly funny...
18 October 2004 | by jantoniouSee all my reviews

I am just old enough to remember the two movies of the same approximate era (1980s, anyway) that became synonymous with big-budget box office bombs: "Ishtar" and "Heaven's Gate."

At the time, "Ishtar" was considered so bad as to be unwatchable. It was skewered and vilified so strongly that the critics rapidly drove it out of the theaters. Few--including me--ever had the nerve to rent the movie.

It wasn't until roughly 10 years after its release that my in-laws introduced me to the comedic greatness that is "Ishtar." To this day when I tell friends and family that I love Ishtar, it is somewhat like saying, enthusiastically, "Hey, I just contracted leprosy!" Such is the stigma that still lingers with this film.

To the credit of critics, this is by no means a work of pure comedic genius.

The movie has essentially one theme that works--the effortless cluelessness of Lyle and Chuck as the world's worst songwriters--and this is exhausted almost completely within the first 30 minutes. Still, it is a totally knee-slapping hilarious 30 minutes. The meandering remaining plot that takes them to Morocco for a singing gig and leads them to become CIA "agents" is what cemented the bad taste in the mouth of critics for time immemorial. This theme by the end of the movie is rather re-treaded and worn-out. We kind of want Warren and Dustin to just shut up by then.

This second act suffers from a kind of Hope-Crosby wannabee syndrome, and the writing isn't up to the slapstick pedigree the movie had begun revealing quite hilariously in the first act. Considering this film came from the pen of Elaine May--of "Nichols and May" comedy duet fame--I would have expected more, but perhaps this movie spiraled out of her hands because of the oft-misunderstood first act. I could easily see studio test audiences handily rejecting it and thus twisting the movie's priorities out of whack.

Still, "Ishtar" shouldn't be brushed aside as a mere footnote in movie history. It is worth watching for its true hilarity and the performances of both Hoffman and Beatty.


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