Here is what the late film critic Roger Ebert had to say about the ostensible comedy "Ishtar" upon it's release in 1987:
"It's hard to play dumb. There's always the danger that a little fugitive intelligence will sneak out of a sideways glance and give the game away. The best that can be said for "Ishtar" is that Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most intelligent actors of their generation, play dumb so successfully that on the basis of this film there's no evidence why they've made it in the movies.
"'Ishtar,' he added, "is a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy."
He gave it half a star. Half. And by the tone of his prose, perhaps he was being generous.
You can read the rest of his evisceration here.
Widely thought to be one of the worst comedies of all time, "Ishtar" was penned and directed by the great Chicago-trained talent Elaine May and to date has grossed a bit over $14 million on a then-massive $51 million budget.
But could it be that May's screenplay simply got mangled in translation from page to screen? Decide for yourself when a May-approved cut of the film (not available on DVD) has multiple screenings over several days at Chicago's Music Box Theatre starting Sunday, April 21 at 7:20 p.m. and 9:40 p.m.
As the writer Peter Biskind put it in his 2010 biography of Warren Beatty, excerpted in Vanity Fair, "Hoffman could see that May was proprietary and inflexible, foibles with which he was all too familiar. But Beatty took Hoffman aside and told him, "You saw those movies that Elaine did. I'm going to be there, and I'm going to make sure that she has the room to do her best work." Hoffman continues, "He was saying, 'Don't worry about the script. Go with her talent. Go with us.' He wasn't wrong. You do go with the talent, and you do go with the synergy of what's going to take place. What he didn't predict--what no one predicted--was that he and Elaine were going to clash."
Someone uploaded the whole dang thing to YouTube in case you haven't seen the original and want to compare it with May's new version.