[[caption-width-right:300:If you think this looks rough, you should see the box office receipts.]]

->''"The best that can be said about ''Ishtar'' is that Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most intelligent actors of their generation, [[DamnedByFaintPraise play dumb so successfully]] that on the basis of this film there's no evidence for why they've made it in the movies."''
-->-- '''Creator/RogerEbert'''

''Ishtar'' was a comedy movie about a pair of [[HollywoodToneDeaf talentless]] and [[TooDumbToLive incredibly stupid]] lounge singers, Lyle Rogers (Creator/WarrenBeatty) and Chuck Clarke (Creator/DustinHoffman), who can only get booked in the Middle East, where war rages and religious fanatics claim of a prophecy involving two men who will bring down the country's brutal leader. Since the CIA has major fundings in this country's current government, they first train Chuck as a spy, while Lyle falls in line with the rebels. Then when the government of Ishtar learns that these two "smucks" might be confused with the prophets, the CIA sends the two of them out into the desert to get lost, and then try to kill Rogers and Clarke when they accidentally manage to navigate through the desert and not die. Due to all the various political conflicts brought up by these events, the United States makes a deal with the lounge singers, which involves giving the people of Ishtar more freedom and Rogers and Clarke a recording contract.

The production of ''Ishtar'' was set into motion by way of the fact that writer/director Creator/ElaineMay had cowritten one Creator/WarrenBeatty hit (''Heaven Can Wait'') and did a major rewrite on another Beatty hit (''Film/{{Reds}}''), and Beatty wanted to work with her on something that she wrote ''and'' directed. May came up with an idea inspired by the Creator/BobHope and Creator/BingCrosby ''Film/RoadTo'' series and got another bankable, respected actor, Creator/DustinHoffman, to costar. A big studio, Creator/ColumbiaPictures, put a lot of money into this movie. WhatCouldPossiblyGoWrong


There were production problems right from the start-- firstly, the Coca-Cola Company, which owned Columbia at the time, insisted that due to other business deals Coca-Cola was involved with, the movie had to be shot in the real Sahara Desert, even though it would have been cheaper to shoot it in the Southwest United States. There were high political tensions in North Africa that made the movie dangerous to shoot (there were worries that Palestinian terrorists might try to kidnap Hoffman), and ExecutiveMeddling, combined with a conflict between producer/star Beatty and May (both strong perfectionists with differing ideas on how the film should have been shot), brought the costs up further.

The film ''was'' completed, and it was ActuallyPrettyFunny. ''New York Times'' film critic Vincent Canby listed it as one of the best films of the year, and multiple film directors have cited it as one of their favorite movies, including Creator/MartinScorsese, Creator/QuentinTarantino and Creator/EdgarWright. Beatty and Hoffman were also happy with the final film.

However, the studio changed heads during release, and the new executive, David Puttnam (who had previously competed against Beatty for a Best Picture Academy Award with their films, ''Chariots of Fire'' and ''Reds'', respectively), sabotaged the movie by slamming it and its actors, setting off a whirlwind of bad promotion. A majority of film critics, riled by the expense of the film, slammed it, without giving it too much of a chance, and this film was so much of a loss for Columbia that the studio was spun-off into its own company and bought the rest of [[Creator/TriStarPictures [=TriStar=] Pictures]] in a merger following a similar box office failure for Creator/TerryGilliam's ''Film/TheAdventuresOfBaronMunchausen'', and then the merged Columbia/[=TriStar=] was later sold to Creator/{{Sony}}. However, despite its reputation as a "flop", ''Ishtar'' actually beat out some good competition, and could have done financially well if it had not been so expensive to produce. Still, its massive financial failure caused [[QualityByPopularVote significant damage to its reputation]].

Despite the poor reception it received at the time, ''Ishtar'' is not received nearly as badly as it once was, and even though it is one of a handful of films that are synonymous with the phrase "BoxOfficeBomb", most viewers find it relatively entertaining. In fact, Gary Larson apologized for a ''[[ComicStrip/TheFarSide Far Side]]'' cartoon he did in which this film was the only one in Hell's Video Store, because he had only done the comic on the basis of its reputation and had not actually seen the film until it was played on an airplane, and he found himself enjoying it. It's basically a good movie beset by production and financial issues that marked it unfairly in the eyes of the public.

For more about Creator/ElaineMay's battles with film studios, read about ''Film/ANewLeaf''.
!!Tropes associated with ''Ishtar'':

* ActionGirl: Shirra
* ArabOilSheikh: The Emir. Ishtar isn't specifically portrayed as being oil-rich, but the CIA's interest in it would seem to point in that direction.
* BasementDweller: Chuck admits to Lyle that he lived with his parents until he was 32.
* CaptainOblivious: Lyle and Chuck, but Lyle especially.
* [[CIAEvilFBIGood CIA Evil]]: As represented by Jim Harrison who seems friendly at first but turns out to be a BitchInSheepsClothing.
* CirclingVultures: Lyle and Chuck encounter them in the desert.
* DiagonalBilling: Beatty and Hoffman in the opening credits, with Isabelle Adjani's name in the middle.
* HeterosexualLifePartners: Lyle and Chuck, especially after they get dumped by their lovers.
* HollywoodToneDeaf: Clarke and Rogers. The songs were composed by Music/PaulWilliams, who admitted it was hard work to write deliberately bad songs.
* IgnorantOfTheirOwnIgnorance: Lyle and Chuck, big time.
* ItsALongStory: Chuck proudly mentions that his nickname is The Hawk, but uses these exact words in [[NoodleIncident declining to explain why]].
* LongTitle: One of the songs is called "That a Lawnmower Can Do All That".
* LoungeLizard: Chuck worked as one, and Lyle was impressed with his performance, which is how they got together.
* OohMeAccentsSlipping: Lyle's drawl goes from slight in the opening New York scenes to thick once they're in Morocco. Most likely explained by the New York sequence being the last thing filmed; Warren Beatty was probably worn out by that point and just wanted to get the shoot finished.
* TheProphecy: The film's {{Macguffin}} is an ancient map with writing foretelling the arrival of two messengers who will herald the overthrow of Ishtar. The Emir and the CIA are afraid that the people will view Lyle and Chuck as fulfilling the prophecy.
* {{Qurac}}: Ishtar itself, an emirate bordering Morocco that's on the brink of civil war.
* SheCleansUpNicely: Shirra, when we see her out of her headscarf in the final scene.
* StockForeignName: Lyle is supposed to find a camel trader named Mohammed, and as you can imagine that doesn't narrow things down very much in Morocco.
* TalkingDownTheSuicidal: Lyle does this for Chuck.
* TechnologyPorn: Not really overt, but the CIA surveillance van has a couple Kenwood communications receivers (most conspicuously the [[http://www.universal-radio.com/catalog/commrxvr/r1000.html R-1000]]), which were highly prized by shortwave radio hobbyists in TheEighties and are still considered collectors' items.
* TerribleIntervieweesMontage: Open mic night variation. The other performers are polished but their songs are insipid ("I'm quitting high school 'cause you don't like me"). Rogers and Clarke are insipid ''and'' awkward.
* TriumphantReprise: "Dangerous Business", the song that Rogers and Clarke are working on at the beginning of the film, comes back at the end, when the lyrics have a lot more resonance.