I won't pretend this flick doesn't have pitfalls but it has enough genuine humor to be well worth watching more then once. While the film is trying to be a political-satire, it's at its weakest when it tries to be subversive; the best parts are the Bing/Hope-ish banter between the leads.
Apparently this has been a flop, I really don't get why - this is probably the most beautifully weird mid-life-crisis-movie I've ever seen: two pals, both wonderfully played stumble through marocco ( consisting of cities and cars, not deserts and sheepherds), their ignorance and naivity confronted with the slingshot-lifestyle of the capitalist periphery - beats much cold-war stuff by length, just great entertainment
I saw this movie long after all the bad reviews, and I was confused. It's a perfectly fine movie. I don't care about the budget. I don't care who is an egomaniac. I just hope future generations can see it in a less hostile environment. Hollywood is run by 4 year olds.
While nowhere near as great as May's The Heartbreak Kid or Mikey and Nicky, this film is hilarious and more brilliantly satirical than Dr. Strangelove, If May simply stopped directing due to personal reasons, more power to her. If this underrated film killed her career behind the camera, shame on Hollywood, as usual.
I'm baffled when Ishtar's failure is blamed on the script, structure or weak gags when it strikes me as a comedic masterpiece, very funny movie! It prefigures the brilliant political satire of Starship Troopers and the awkward social and body humor of something like Arrested Development! - maybe that's what made people so uneasy in 1987...
Other than how much it cost and bias against movie star egos involved, the only other theory I got as to why people didn't dig it back than is American's weren't ready for "cringe comedy' played straight until 2000s TV comedies made it more accepted. It's not perfect or May's best film but it's got a lot good things going for it.
I wasn't expecting it to be any good, but I didn't think it could be as bad as its horrific reputation. I was wrong. This film isn't just not funny, its excruciatingly so as it tries desperately to wring out a laugh while trudging through a bloated, pointless thriller plot. Not even entertaining in a "so bad it's good" kind of way, just irritating and painfully boring.
This is a great movie - though i think it would have been better at around 90 minutes - nonetheless - it is a great movie with some of the cleverest dialogue since the Hope and Crosby films it emulates. Also worth noting is the hilarious bad music. Ishtar - "its a state of mind"!