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Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Three Amigos (1986)

Three Amigos (1986) movie posterby Peter Nielsen

The small Mexican village of Santo Poco is being terrorized by the evil, murdering and villaineous bandido El Guapo! Or if you want the 10 Peso version… the infamous El Guapo! The villagers have had enough and Carmen goes to the “big” city to try to find someone to help them get rid of him. Carmen is played by the beautiful Patrice Martinez from the TV-show Zorro.

Unfortunately there is no-one, so she turns to the church where, at the moment, there’s a screening of a silent movie. It’s about the Three Amigos aiding a small helpless village against a bandit. Carmen, thinking they are for real, quickly sends a telegram asking for their help. In reality, they are three out of work and homeless actors by the names Lucky Day, Ned Nederlander and Dusty Bottoms.

On the same day they receive the telegram they’ve just been thrown off the studio lot for demanding a bigger paycheck. The telegram is a bit hazy as to what they’re supposed to do, so they assume they’re hired to do a little show together with the infamous El Guapo. Since they’re broke and have no place to go, they accept! They break into the studio, steal their costumes and away they go…

Out-of-work actors...

Out-of-work actors…

The director is John Landis who’s made such memorable movies as Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London and Into the Night for instance and is a name I assume most of you recognize. He took three big comedians of the time and threw them into a milieu we weren’t used to seeing them in… The “old” west!

Steve Martin (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Lucky, Martin Short (Innerspace, Pure Luck) is Ned and Chevy Chase from the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies and Caddyshack plays Dusty Bottoms.

The beautiful Carmen.

The beautiful Carmen.

It works though! They do look slightly like fish out of water, but that’s the whole point. They’re supposed to look out of place! So, when the three amigos arrive in Mexico and people look at them weirdly, they just assume it’s because people aren’t used to seeing movie-stars up close.

They meet up with Carmen who takes them to Santo Poco where they wait for the arrival of El Guapo. A day later three of his bandidos arrive in town and the amigos put on their show. This confuses the bandidos somewhat, who ride back to tell their leader, and the actors are hailed as heroes. There’s a big celebration, but the next morning they wake up, badly hung-over, to the arrival of El Guapo and most of his men.

Again, a show has to be put on but this time the bandidos are not impressed. El Guapo looks on in amusement and turns to his right-hand man, Jefe, with the words: “I like these guys… they are funny guys! Just kill one of them!”

Lullaby in the desert.

Lullaby in the desert.

Of course. Jefe doesn’t kill one of the amigos, but he does wound Lucky though. The actors realize that, yup, this is for real and run away, thus leaving the town to be destroyed by the gang and Carmen to be kidnapped by El Guapo. And btw? This follows a well-used formula, so I’m not really spoiling anything here.

The actors are ashamed of themselves and decides that the only decent thing to do is to rescue Carmen and help the villagers out… For real! Meanwhile, at El Guapo’s hideout, his men are preparing a birthday celebration for him that leads to this funny little conversation between him and Jefe:

“Jefe: I have put many beautiful piñatas in the storeroom, each of them filled with little surprises.

El Guapo: Many piñatas?

Jefe: Oh yes, many!

El Guapo: Would you say I have a plethora of piñatas?

Jefe: A what?

El Guapo: A plethora.

Jefe: Oh yes, you have a plethora.

El Guapo: Jefe… what is a plethora?

Jefe: Why, El Guapo?

El Guapo: Well, you told me I have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and find out that that person has no idea what it means to have a plethora.

Jefe: Forgive me, El Guapo. I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education. But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?”

Jefe and El Guapo holding his birthday present.

Jefe and El Guapo holding his birthday present.

And that is, of course, the case, since Carmen doesn’t want to “open up” to him. I like the characters El Guapo and Jefe. They work great together and are played by two fine actors. Alfonso Arau (Romancing the Stone, Used Cars) as El Guapo, and Tony Plana (An Officer and a Gentleman, Salvador) as Jefe.

There are actually a bunch of great actors playing bit parts in Three Amigos. Jon Lovitz, Fred Asparagus, Joe Mantegna and Brian Thompson all make an appearance along with the late Phil Hartman and also Randy Newman (who wrote the songs) as the singing bush.

A whole bunch of us went to see this and since it was playing in a fairly small theater, I seem to remember us taking up an entire row. We had a great time and laughed out loud a lot, and you know what..? Three Amigos still holds up today. I still laughed out loud on a couple of occasions and I’m a sucker for a great mariachi band, so I was kind of doing a little dance in the sofa too.

So, with a singing bush, singing horses, an invisible swordsman and hot señoritas it’s not a movie meant to be taken seriously… It’s meant to be enjoyed!

So, with a little chuckle I’ll leave you this week and, as always…

Please tell me your thoughts on this little comedy.





About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!

2 comments for “Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Three Amigos (1986)

  1. December 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Nice work as usual. I, too, enjoy this film but have always felt that based on all of the incredible talent involved, that it should’ve been even funnier. Still lots of good stuff in there. Thanks!

    • Peter Nielsen
      December 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Thank you very much, kind sir! 🙂

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