Box office bombs often become legends of their own based on just how bad they did or how much they were talked about. Kevin Smith’s Jersey Girl is infamous for it. In the 1980’s, two films pop right into my head when I think of infamous bombs. Howard the Duck and Ishtar. And now after what seems like an eternal wait, Ishtar is available on Blu-ray for the first time.
Lyle Rogers (Warren Beatty) and Chuck Clarke (Dustin Hoffman) have given their all to becoming the next big sensation in music. They want desperately to be the next Simon and Garfunkel, but although they have passion, one big obstacle stands in their way. They are terrible. Lyle and Chuck want to make it in the music business more than anything, so much that they take a regular gig at a bar in Morocco. Along the way however, they both become involved in an international political plot involving a CIA operative (Charles Grodin) and a beautiful rebel (Isabelle Adjani). The question is are Lyle and Chuck saviors sent from God or just two idiotic American’s caught up in a mess?
I could go on for days about why Ishtar is so great. First thing is Hoffman and Beatty. They are just in perfect comedic form in this movie. Beatty has a classic and wholly convincing deer in the headlights look for pretty much the entire film, while Hoffman plays his character up like the most confident tough guy ever despite his small stature. Both actors play the silly roles totally straight and it works like gangbusters. You also get a killer supporting cast including the genius that is Charles Grodin as the untrustworthy CIA agent and an adorable Isabelle Adjani as the rebel both men fall for. In addition to all this talent you also get tons of pricelessly ridiculous songs written by none other than Paul Williams to showcase the diverse song catalog of Rogers and Clarke. These songs had me rolling in laughter even after all of these years. Some of them are even improvised my Hoffman and Beatty themselves. There is just wonderful adventure and hilarity to be found in Ishtar, and some of the best set ups with a blind camel you will ever see. Just take my word for it, check out Ishtar and join the enlightened that already recognize the film for its comedy genius.
The Blu-ray from Sony, while not an eye popper, is a solid upgrade from the old grainy DVD. The picture is significantly boosted in clarity and detail, and while there is still some softness and grain, it is a very pleasant picture to be found here. Ishtar is a gem of an 80s comedy and should be regarded as such. And I for one am more than pleased to be holding a hi def copy of it. Bravo Sony.
Available August 6, 2013.