Feb 11, 2019
Ishtar (1987): a recap (part 8 of 9): In the desert, you can remember your lame songs
Previously on Ishtar: Chuck and Lyle continued their centuries-long aimless stroll through the desert with their blind camel, which felt like the most painful thing ever until they spent a solid ten minutes pretending to be Arabs and shouting out foreign-sounding gibberish, which made us all realize we didn’t know how good we had it with the aimless wandering. Finally, the Emir of Ishtar said enough was enough, and ordered the immediate and violent deaths of Chuck and Lyle. Bless you, your Excellency.
And now, we cut to… more of Chuck and Lyle wandering through the desert, of course. They’ve got the crate full of weapons tied to the camel’s back, and now they’re just crawling through the sand, because they’re unbelievably dehydrated and close to dying.
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Chuck gasps, “Water,” and Lyle gasps, “My lips are on fire.” This causes Chuck to sing, “With my desire…” and Lyle sings, “For youuuu…” Because they’re songwriters, as this movie just now remembered for the first time in well over an hour.
Chuck thinks this is a “good song”, so Lyle continues to improvise, “So let me drink the water, let me drink the wine…”
Chuck sings back, “If you’re not my daughter… will you still be mine?” The stupidity of this lyric makes Chuck start giggling uncontrollably. Oh sure, it’s funny for you, but Woody and Soon-Yi had to live that shit. The two men are delirious from the heat and they start laughing uproariously at nothing at all, and this was without a shadow of a doubt the only laughter heard in theaters showing Ishtar.
Chuck then buries his face in the sand, and his laughter turns to crying. He’s once again overcome with sadness about not doing anything with his life, and not having a wife or kids, but Lyle says this “isn’t really a good time to get depressed.” He tells Chuck to look at the positives here: They’re actually doing stuff for a change, and they’re not just “living lives of quiet desperation” anymore. No, they’re in fact dying in quiet desperation now, but at least it’s something different.
Chuck blubbers on, saying he just has “the blues”, and so Lyle starts improvising a song about people who don’t have money and how they aren’t really poor: “That’s not poverty, baby! That’s not the thought of the Have-Not Blues!” Chuck adds some lines, then says this is “some of our best work” and asks if Lyle has a pencil.
And moment later, Lyle collapses into the sand. He then gets up, puts his hand on Chuck’s back, and says the very cryptic, “Hey. I wonder if we’re here.” The middle eastern intrigue music starts up again as Chuck warns Lyle not to “lose it”. He’s convinced Lyle is going crazy, but a cut to Lyle’s point of view shows him looking at Chuck’s back. You see, Chuck is still wearing Shirra’s jacket that she gave him back at the airport in Ishtar, but he’s got it on inside-out over his head, and it turns out the sacred map has been sewn into the lining of the jacket all along (and Shirra somehow didn’t notice this when she was putting the jacket on).
Lyle wonders where they are in relation to the sun, and Chuck warily says, “don’t scare me, you’re all I have.” Finally, Lyle pulls off the jacket and lays it in front of Chuck, who realizes it’s a map. “This must be the map!” And then in a line clearly meant for the benefit of everyone in the audience who’s just now waking up, Lyle goes, “You mean, the map that could cost us Ishtar and enflame the Middle East?” Yes, that would be the one. And thanks for the plot recap, Lyle.
Lyle wonders how it got into the lining of the jacket, and Chuck calls him a “schmuck” and says Shirra’s brother must have sewn it in. And so, they finally have Shirra’s all-important map, and all Lyle wants to know is if he can “give it to her with you”. Chuck says they can’t tell the CIA about the map, and they have to give it directly to Shirra, because she’s “gone through enough”.
Lyle says, “Boy, she must’ve gone through a lot if she found out about that wind.” Referring to how she said there was no wind in the desert, when there is in fact wind in the desert, and Chuck is all, “That was a weird one!” Lyle also realizes that contrary to what Shirra told him, the beads on his necklace never glowed. And Chuck says he doesn’t remember them shining last night. “In fact… I remember them not shining!” And then they just shake their heads, finally getting an inkling that Shirra lied to them.
And now the CIA chopper has returned, presumably to kill Chuck and Lyle as the Emir demanded. This time, Sabotage Guy is holding a rifle, and talking on the radio to Jim Harrison, who’s now at some sort of command center. Harrison tells them to come in low, so that the shots look like they came from the ground. Chuck and Lyle see the chopper and are again thrilled that they’re finally getting rescued, and they start waving their arms at the chopper and hugging each other.
Sabotage Guy climbs out on the landing gear with his rifle and gives them a salute, and Lyle notices he’s pointing a gun at them. But Chuck assures him he’s “just riding shotgun in case there’s trouble!” Lyle really thinks he’s aiming that gun at them, but Chuck tells him not to be so “paranoid”.
But eventually, Sabotage Guy opens fire. Chuck stands there looking confused, while Lyle darts around yelling, “Run, smuck!” (yes, he’s still pronouncing “schmuck” wrong—remember that?) “They’re trying to kill us!” He tells Chuck to “run in a crooked line” and the two of them are now just running around in circles as generic action music plays. Sabotage Guy tells the pilot to get in closer, because they need to make it look like they were shot from the ground. Sabotage Guy also wishes his gun was “mounted”, which has nothing to do with anything.
Chuck and Lyle hide behind the camel, and eventually, they start digging into that crate of weapons. Lyle finds a rifle, and shoots back at Sabotage Guy. The guy is so shocked that they’re firing on him that he jumps back inside the chopper and tells the pilot to get them out of here. Chuck compliments Lyle’s shooting abilities, which Lyle explains by saying he “used to hunt every day before the tire factory opened!”
Sabotage Guy reports to Harrison that they’ve been hit. So Harrison radios back that he’ll be sending in a “battle gunship” instead.
And now Lyle is pushing on the blind camel, and Chuck is yanking on its reins, and they’re trying to get it to move. But the camel’s not budging. Chuck can’t believe the “stupid-ass” camel would rather just sit in one place and get shot. Lyle says, “Actually, I kind of admire that,” and Chuck agrees. Okay, whatever floats your boats, guys.
Finally, the two men grab a blanket, put all the weapons on top, and start to drag it away. And that’s when they spot two helicopters coming over the horizon. The original chopper is back, plus another chopper that must be the “battle gunship” previously mentioned. The two men grab guns and get ready to stand their ground. While they’re waiting for the helicopters to get closer, Lyle says this is “amazing”, because “Nothing ever happened to us,” and they never did anything with their lives, but “now we’re gonna die in the desert shooting helicopters”.
Chuck refers back to the song they just wrote, saying, “That ain’t poverty!” And now they’re both singing “The Have-Not Blues” as the choppers close in. Chuck says, “We didn’t need a pencil!” Okay, but if you have one, I’d still like to stab myself in the eyeball with it.
The guys in the helicopters are radioing each other, and they notice a jeep coming across the desert and approaching the scene. Chuck and Lyle also see the jeep, and Chuck thinks it’s someone who “wants to kill us bad enough to drive across the desert!” Lyle wonders if they’re “trying to make it look like a traffic accident,” which is a mildly funny line, though it suggests Lyle knows the CIA wants to make it look like their deaths were from “natural causes”, which he would have no way of knowing.
The driver calls out to them, saying not to shoot, and it turns out to be… Abdul. Remember? Abdul! He wanted to be their guide back at the market. It’s so great to see him again after those three lines he got earlier! He also tells them he has a “paying passenger”, and it turns out to be… Shirra! Yay, Shirra! The woman who deliberately sent them into the desert to slowly die of dehydration!
The agents up in the helicopters see that the jeep has stopped. Sabotage Guy says they’ll just have to kill everybody in the jeep too, and orders both pilots to move in.
Coming up next: The final big battle sequence absolutely no one has been waiting for, followed up by the final big musical number(s) that no one wanted. Yes, our long national nightmare is nearly over: it’s the last installment of my Ishtar recap.