It takes time for accurate critical evaluation to settle-- especially on something that was as universally reviled upon release as ISHTAR was. (After all, even HEAVEN'S GATE has been reappraised over the last decade.) The article was absolutely right that reviews at the time focused almost solely on the movie's budget and not the movie itself.
Judy and I saw it in the theater on opening day, and she loved it from the start.
I recall, perhaps incorrectly, that Pauline Kael liked "Ishtar." (By the time it was released, I had more-or-less stopped going to movies for reasons that I no longer remember.) And I had not realized that Elaine May has not directed a movie since--that's criminal neglect of talent.
I've always enjoyed it. I thought the songwriting bits in it were hilarious. An actor friend of mine once did one of the songs from it as an audition number and it KILLED. Sure, it probably cost too much money for the kind of movie it was, but it was right up my alley.
I liked the songwriting bits, too, and I enjoyed the painful performances of the songs.
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