MOVIES: 'We are … The Three Amigos!'
Man, I saw this for $7.99 at Fred Meyer yesterday and couldn't resist picking it up. "Three Amigos!" may not be the best movie ever made, but by gum, it's a charming and funny little romp, one I've always had an unaccountable minor fetish for. I actually saw it in the theater when it came out, exactly 20 years ago now. It's not one that'll be mentioned in the obituaries of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase or Martin Short, but for my money it's a lot funnier than many of the movies those three have made solo.
Why "Three Amigos"? It's basically a poor fifteenth-generation riff of "Seven Samurai" (which is ripped off so often it's practically its own genre). Poor village hires strange gunmen to help defend them against evil bandits … except in this case, the gunmen are actually three deluded, out-of-work Hollywood silent-film actors who think it's all a show. Of course, in the end, the bumbling actors become real-life heroes, the village is saved from the evil El Guapo, and so forth.
I'll be straight – "Three Amigos" isn't really a good movie, but watching it on DVD last night, I still laughed a lot. Director John Landis can't figure out if he's making a comedy or a lighthearted action flick like his "Blues Brothers", but oddly enough, Chase, Martin and Short have a real chemistry together. Martin's the wise-ass self-deluded amigo, Chase the moron, and Short the sensitive man-child. A pretty darn great Martin overshadows Short and particularly Chase, who'd just started to morph into the arrogant, couldn't-care-less personality that eventually ended his career.
There's a nice surreal sense of humor in the movie, and several lines that never fail to crack me up ("You shot the Invisible Swordsman!"). It's the wacky moments that stick, like the laconic Mexican bartender (who is played by an actor with the name of, I kid you not, Fred Asparagus. Why couldn't I be named after a vegetable?) or the Amigos doing an impromptu dance number to "My Little Buttercup." And as the menacing El Guapo, Alfonso Arau has a sleazy wit and knows what the word "plethora" means.
Curiously, at one point the movie was considered for Martin, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, which would've been a very different movie – probably better, certainly more unhinged. But I admit to liking "Amigos" just the way it is, not trying to be the world's most epic comedy, but just a simple, kind of sweet diversion.
I leave you with this from Steve Martin's Lucky Day:
"In a way, each of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!"
Words to live by.