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ISHTAR REVIEWS - What was said at the time...


CHICAGO READER
Jonathan Rosenbaum
"...this Elaine May comedy was the most underappreciated commercial movie of 1987. It isnít quite as good as Mayís previous features, but itís still a very funny work by one of this countryís greatest comic talents."
[1 Jul 1988]
CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Dave Kehr
"Ishtar is a good movie, but you can't help but wonder if, lurking somewhere in those cans of outtakes, there isn't a great movie, too."
[15 May 1987]
LOS ANGELES TIMES
Sheila Benson
"In the guise of a sort of liberal's rethinking of the Hope-Crosby 'Road' movies, Elaine May has created a love letter to show-biz dreamers & called it "Ishtar." It is a smart, generous, genuinely funny affair. Sometimes, like the camel who almost ambles away with the picture, it's longish in the tooth, but it is based on an extremely astute vision of life. It's merely an entirely intelligent, drolly funny comedy with something on its mind. And from where I sit, that's amore."
[15 May 1987]
NEW HOUSE NEWSPAPERS
Richard Friedman
"The funniest movie in recent years... brilliantly written & directed by Elaine May. Hoffman & Beatty have never been finer."
NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE
"A funny, spirited romp. It's silly-funny, clever-funny. It's been a long time since two male stars of this magnitude have teamed up, & they're enchanting."

PLAYBOY MAGAZINE
Bruce Williamson
"Warren Beatty & Dustin Hoffman are raffishly hilarious."
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Judy Stone
"It's worth seeing the movie just to observe (Grodin's) delicious blend of unctuous manipulation & anti-Communist sanctimoniousness."
[15 May 1987]
THE GLOBE & MAIL
Jay Scott
"Is it worth seeing? Yes. The ability to charm in the modern world is rare, & Ishtar does charm. Essentially, it's a teen film for adults, which is to say, it's mindless but not stupid good fun. And there are at least four times when the audience laughs out loud."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Elvis Mitchell
"The worst of it is painless; the best is funny, sly, cheerful and, here & there, even genuinely inspired."
[15 May 1987, p.C3]
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Janet Maslin
"This is pure Elaine May - astute, fine-tuned neurotic humor... a little of Miss May's wit goes a long way. Mr. Hoffman & Mr. Beatty make a good team; they have an easy, friendly rapport."
[15 May 1987]

TIME MAGAZINE
Richard Schickel
"One (finally) cannot resist warming to a movie in which people are astonished to find out that Gaddafi is the name of a man not a country but are strangely gratified to learn that vultures, like tyro songwriters, work 'on spec.' And that contains, above all, a golden trashery of dreadful pop lyrics ('There's a wardrobe of love in my eyes,/ Come back & see if there's something your size')."
[18 May 1987]
TV GUIDE
Angel Cohn
"For all the bad press Ishtar received, it does have a certain odd charm... The biggest problem is that any attempted subtlety is swamped by May's bid to turn the film into an epic adventure story."
USA TODAY
Mike Clark
"Undeniable hilarity."
VARIETY
David Rooney
"Enter Charles Grodin, who upstages all involved via his savagely comical portrayal of a CIA agent."
WABC-TV
Joel Siegel
"Dustin Hoffman gives a brilliant performance. Warren Beatty plays a nerd, he's so good you almost believe him. The acting is terrific & ISHTAR is fun."
WASHINGTON POST
Desson Thomson
"Ishtar is an unabashed vamp for a pair of household names, & as such it works, often hilariously."
[15 May 1987]


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CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
Roger Ebert
"'Ishtar' is a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy. Elaine May, the director, has mounted a multimillion-dollar expedition in search of a plot so thin that it hardly could support a five-minute TV sketch. And Beatty & Hoffman, good soldiers marching along on the trip, look as if they've had all wit & thought beaten out of them. This movie is a long, dry slog. It's not funny, it's not smart & it's interesting only in the way a traffic accident is interesting."
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR STAFF
(Uncredited)
"The funny scenes are as far apart as oases in the Sahara."
[22 May 1987]
FILM THREAT
Brad Laidman
"The guys in Ishtar are the boring wallflowers of the world. They probably shouldn't be mocked, disgraced & beaten, but who really wants to spend close to two hours with them."
THE NEW YORKER
Pauline Kael
"When Beatty & Hoffman doe their (deliberately hopeless) singing numbers, jerking like mechanical men, phrasing unmusically, going off-key, they don't have the slapstick skills for it. That's when you long for Martin & Murray, or some other comics."
[1 June 1987, p.102]

WALL STREET JOURNAL
Julie Salamon
"Hoffman & Beatty are so tone-deaf they don't even know how to play the songs for deadpan humor. They seem old, white, & without shtick."
[14 May 1987, p.26(E)]
WASHINGTON POST
Ann Hornaday
"It's piddling -- a hangdog little comedy with not enough laughs...its spirit rattles around inside it like a marble in an oil drum."
WASHINGTON POST
Hal Hinson
"A mammoth dud, a catastrophe, a huge floundering stinker of biblical proportions -- that's what all the advance stories on 'Ishtar' have prepared us for. In fact, it's not nearly so grand an achievement. 'Ishtar' doesn't attempt enough to be considered a magnificent failure. It's something far less substantial; it's piddling -- a hangdog little comedy with not enough laughs."

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of www.metacritic.com, without whom some of these quotes would not be possible.


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