If the title of this movie rings any bells for you then they're probably warning bells. The name Ishtar has become synonymous with over-budgeted, vanity projects, flop movies; so much so that Waterworld was dubbed Fishtar before release. Sure, Ishtar cost $55million to make and there were numerous reports of production troubles (even beyond the shooting of the film with director Elaine May working on the final edit for months, only turning in a finished print when the studio threatened legal action), and the film ultimately grossed only $12.7million. But sometimes reputations shouldn't be trusted and bad buzz may be the result of politics rather than the actual quality of a film. There have been numerous occasions throughout Hollywood history where successful stars have become the victims of critics eager to 'bust their bubble', and experimental or 'off-beat' projects have been the unfortunate targets.

What many detractors leap on about the film is its alleged 'mis-casting'. They question the logic of casting ladies man Warren Beatty as the awkward, nerdy Lyle Rogers and the awkward, nerdy Dustin Hoffman as ladies man Chuck Clarke. But this is part of the film's wonky appeal, it's willingness to play with expectations, much in the same way as Ben Stiller's Zoolander. Secondly critics would complain about how awful the songs in the movie were, with Hoffman and Beatty as struggling Simon & Garfunkel aping songwriters the joke that the characters were actually supposed to be talentless went over most heads. How can you not love the lyric; 'She said come look there's a wardrobe of love in my eyes/Take your time, look around, see if there's something your size.'

If there is a flaw with the film it is that the plot is particularly flimsy; inable to find an agent, recently dumped by their girlfriends and desperate for money, singer-songwriters Rogers and Clarke take a low-paid booking in the Morrocan town of Ishtar where they wind up in the midst of a revolution. Clarke is recruited by the CIA (led by a delightfully sleazy Charles Grodin), whilst Rogers finds himself helping the rebels (most specifically the beautiful Isabelle Adjani). And, really, that's about it. But, again, this is a comedy and a buddy-movie at that, the plot is second fiddle to the interplay between our heroes.

Fortunately the easy-going chemistry between Hoffman and Beatty is magnificent; again, for me, it recalls the films of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson (rather apt that Hoffman then played Stiller's father in Meet the Fockers). From their semi-ad-libbed song-writing sessions to their rather endearingly pathetic dependency on one another and then the barmier sections of the film where the two find themselves stranded in the desert, ultimately being attacked by a helicopter marksman; 'Run in a crooked line!' It is clear that whatever problems there were on-set weren't between the two actors, a few years down the line Hoffman turned up in Beatty's Dick Tracy as Mumbles.

However mid-way through the production of Ishtar the studio financing the project changed its head creative to David Puttnam, who disliked Beatty and was on poor terms with Hoffman, and whilst it is rumoured that he spread negative buzz to sink any projects made under the old studio regime, it is also suggested that Beatty and Hoffman tortured him in return; Hoffman, for instance, got the studio to charter a flight just to transport his kids toys to Morroco from L.A. But, if every film with production troubles was regarded as awful then the likes of Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now and every single Terry Gilliam film would be confined to the dustbin of history.

I, personally, stumbled upon Ishtar whilst channel hopping late one night and knew the name, but nothing about the content. I was surprised by how quickly the film grabbed my attention (the film's first act is impeccably edited) and how much I laughed, I have gone on to show this film to many friends who have also enjoyed the film - trust me, with my film tastes that's a rarity! And as time has worn on I have noticed a small current of growing interest and admiration for this hugely under-rated comedy. Recently Quentin Tarantino turned up on stage to introduce a screening of the film (and sing one of the songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAr0yxIMEYw).

But sometimes it's hard to shake a stigma. I imagine I'll be campaigning for a reappraisal of Ishtar for a while, because it's not the greatest film of all time, but it's a very unique movie with a laidback, eccentric sense of humour and some strangely catchy tunes.