Here’s how the story goes: Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman are struggling and mightily untalented songwriters-singers in New York. They hook up with talent agent Jack Weston (who delivers a fine character performance) and wind up getting booked into the Chez Casablanca in Morocco. Yes, there’s the obvious parallels to the Hope-Crosby Road films.
Arrival in Africa finds Beatty-Hoffman stopping in the mythical kingdom of Ishtar, where swirl of events leads them into vortex of Middle East political turmoil, with Isabelle Adjani functioning as a left-wing rebel trying to overthrow the US-backed Emir of Ishtar.
Enter Charles Grodin, who upstages all involved via his savagely comical portrayal of a CIA agent. He provides the connecting link as a series of zigzag plot points unfold because of an important map.
Desert sequences provide some of the film’s high points as Beatty and Hoffman finally develop some genuine rapport under adverse conditions. There are also a few hilarious scenes as vultures circle an exhausted Hoffman and later as he’s thrust into role as a translator for gunrunners and their Arab buyers.