Picks and Pans Review: Three Amigos

updated 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/05/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

About 15 minutes into a packed Manhattan theater showing of this comedy starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short, a young woman turned with disgust to her date—who was howling uproariously—and said, "What a stupid movie." She was right. But you could understand his reaction. The star trio, playing silent-screen actors who get mistaken for real heroes by Mexican peasants, had actually earned that laugh. (It would be uncharitable to give the joke away since there are so few in the movie, and you're probably going to see the darned thing no matter what the critics say.) For the rest, this painfully forced farce coasts along—or tries to—on good will. Martin, Chase and Short have all been so good before, especially on TV's Saturday Night Live, that just seeing them sparks a smile. But this time what you see is all you get. What might have been a decent five-minute SNL sketch has been stretched so thin it's lifeless. Martin, as co-screenwriter (with composer Randy Newman), fills in with anachronistic gags about light beer, genital japes and sophomoric word play. Mere repetition of the phrase "a plethora of piñatas" is supposed to be the summit of literary gamesmanship. John (The Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us) Landis directed with his customary heavy-handed comedy touch and encouraged his cast to giggle at their own inane shenanigans. It's like watching Sinatra and the Clan in Rat Pack movies of the 1960s: infuriating. (PG)

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