John Landis to his day remains one of the key directors of American Comedy films from ’70s and throughout the ’80s. His one two punch of Animal House and The Blues Brothers remains one of the best of any director never-mind a director of comedy. An American Werewolf in London is loved by many but I’ve never personally cared for it much. ¡Three Amigos! comes at the start of his decline which would result in fair like Oscar and Beverly Hills Cops III in the ’90s.
The cult auteur Alex Cox at one point was offered ¡Three Amigos! after Sid & Nancy and only turned it down so he could make his passion project Walker. What a more interesting and strange film it could have been. The script by Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and weirdly the singer-songwriter Randy Newman have been in development hell since the early ’80s after the success of Martin’s vastly overrated The Jerk. Even at one point Hollywood’s golden boy Steven Spielberg was attached as director.
The initial concept of the film is better than the finished film which is why you can imagine why Alex Cox, Spielberg or Landis were interested. Three silent film stars are mistaken for being actual gunslingers by a group of Mexicans who request them to come down to fight El Guapo who have been terrorising their village. Steve Martin, Martin Short and the always extremely unlikable Chevy Chase are the silent film stars christened the Three Amigos.
Overall the tone is the general Steve Martin vehicle of its time so the humour are times is overly slapstick for its own good for instance. However despite that there are inspired moments of comedy which even the worst Steve Martin film has. Martin Short who had become a fixture of SNL the year previously and has always had solid comedy timing and this was his major motion picture debut. It moves at relatively solid pace of 100 minutes could probably have used a trim of around 15 minutes to tighten the pace up but that’s the case of much of Landis’ work.
It’s enjoyable but for the films Steve Martin wrote it’s not as inventive as Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid or has the savage satire of Bowfinger. Joe Mantegna appears in a fun role as the head of the film studio and the then relatively unknown Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz also appear. Legendary comedian Sam Kenison shot some scenes but they were deleted in the finished film. The disc contains absolutely Nada as well.