‘Three Amigos’ Revisited: Still Charming And Singularly Strange At 30

Senior Editor
01.09.17 50 Comments

¡Three Amigos! turned 30 this month, a basic cable classic of a certain kind. I had fond memories of the 1986 comedy, directed by John Landis, and written by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels, and Randy Newman, that vague good feeling of something you enjoyed pre-adolescence. It retains classic status, or thereabouts, among my generation, or thereabouts (Gen Y, younger Gen X-ers, and older millennials), and to be sure, it’s been named one of the all-time greatest comedies in several respected listicles. Starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase, it’s an era straddler in many ways, combining legends of 70s SNL (Martin and Chase) with the 80s high concept comedy, co-starring Ebersol-era SNL star Short, and even bridging the gap to the later SNL casts of the 90s, with cameos by Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman. It was a combination of so many elements that never were before or never again would be combined.

Like so many things people like me bother writing about, it wasn’t well loved at the time, not even cracking 50% on RottenTomatoes (44%, as of current writing), not that RottenTomatoes was around at the time. It even earned a brutal (or actually just bored) one star from Roger Ebert, to go with its other lackluster entries.

“…what we have here is a shaggy chihuahua tale with endless bickering and pratfalls. The only other time the film spins off into inspired madness is when the boys confront a singing bush in the middle of the desert. […] You know it`s a boring comedy when you find yourself laughing only at the lead actors` costumes.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“Broad, uneven western parody. […] …there’s not a lot of flesh on these cynically haphazard bones.” – Pat Graham, Chicago Reader

“The ideas to make “Three Amigos” into a good comedy are here, but the madness is missing. All great farces need a certain insane focus, an intensity that declares how important they are to themselves. […] My guess is they made it with too much confidence and not enough desperation.” –Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“The happy-go-lucky Three Amigos is a picture to see when your expectations are down and you’ve already been to everything that’s good.” –Jay Boyar Orlando Sentinel

“Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase go south of the border for “Three Amigos,” the cinematic equivalent of Montezuma’s revenge. It’s a calamity of a comedy, the perfect complement to concession-stand nachos con cheez.” -Rita Kempley, Rita Kempley, Washington Post

“”Three Amigos” is likable, but it never really finds a distinctive style. Not quite parody and not quite serious, it’s more like a lengthy costume party.” –Janet Maslin, New York Times

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