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Subscriber: I have seen and written many beautiful replies in the comments section, each of them filled with little compliments.
Dusty: Many replies?
Subscriber: Oh yes, many!
Dusty: Would you say I have a plethora of replies?
Subscriber: A what?
Dusty: A *plethora*.
Subscriber: Oh yes, you have a plethora.
Dusty: Friend, what is a plethora?
Subscriber: Why, Dusty?
Dusty: 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 then find out that that person has *no idea* what it means to have a plethora.
Subscriber: Forgive me, Dusty. I know that I, your subscriber, 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?
Director: John Landis
Writers: Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Randy Newman
Stars: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short
Release Date: December 12, 1986 (United States)
Run time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
In 1916, the bandit El Guapo and his gang collect protection money from the Mexican village of Santa Poco. Carmen, daughter of the village leader, searches for someone who can rescue her townspeople. Visiting a village church, she sees a silent film featuring The Three Amigos, a trio of gunfighters who protect the vulnerable from villains. Believing them to be real heroes, Carmen sends a telegram asking them to come and stop El Guapo.
Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms, and Ned Nederlander, the actors who portray the Amigos, demand a salary increase for their next project and are fired by their boss Harry Flugelman. He has them evicted from the studio mansion, banned from his lot, and the clothes they borrowed from wardrobe repossessed. They soon receive Carmen’s telegram, misinterpreting it as a job offer to perform a show in Santo Poco. The Amigos break into the studio to retrieve their costumes and head for Mexico.
Stopping at a cantina near Santo Poco, they are mistaken for associates of a fast-shooting German pilot who arrived just before they did, also in search of El Guapo. They perform “My Little Buttercup” at the cantina, confusing the locals. The German’s real associates arrive at the cantina, proving themselves lethal with their pistols when everybody laughs at them. Relieved, Carmen picks up the Amigos and takes them to the village, where they are pampered in the best house in town.
The next morning, when three of El Guapo’s men raid the village, the Amigos do a Hollywood-style stunt show that leaves the men bemused. The bandits ride off, making the villagers think they have defeated the enemy. In reality, the men inform El Guapo of what has happened and he decides to return the next day to kill the Amigos.
The village throws a victory party for the Amigos. The next morning, El Guapo and his gang come to Santo Poco and call them out, but they think it’s another show. After Lucky gets shot, they realize they are confronting real bandits and beg for mercy. El Guapo allows the Amigos to live, then lets his men loot the village and kidnaps Carmen. They leave Santo Poco in humiliation.
Ned persuades Lucky and Dusty to go after El Guapo as they have nothing worth going back to in America and this is their chance to be real heroes. They spot a plane and follow it; it is flown by the German, who has brought a shipment of rifles for the gang. El Guapo’s 40th birthday party is being prepared and he plans to bed Carmen that night. The Amigos fling themselves over the wall to infiltrate the hideout with mixed results: Lucky is immediately captured and chained in a dungeon, Dusty crashes into Carmen’s room, and Ned ends up suspended from a piñata.
Lucky frees himself, but Dusty and Ned are discovered and held hostage. The German, having idolized Ned’s quick-draw and gun-spinning pistol skills in childhood, challenges him to a shootout. Ned kills the German and Lucky holds El Guapo at gunpoint long enough for Carmen and the Amigos to escape in the German’s plane.
Returning to Santo Poco with El Guapo’s army in pursuit, the Amigos rally the villagers to stand up for themselves. The villagers are uncertain as all they are good at is sewing. Drawing inspiration from one of their films, they have the villagers create improvised Amigos costumes. The bandits arrive, are shot at by Amigos from all sides, and fall into hidden trenches. El Guapo’s men either ride off or are shot, and he takes a fatal wound. Before he dies, the villagers, dressed as Amigos, step out to confront him. El Guapo congratulates them, then shoots Lucky in the foot before dying.
The villagers offer the Amigos all the money they have, but the Amigos refuse it with: “Our reward is that justice has been done.” They then ride off into the sunset.
Three Amigos is a great, funny movie, though between the violence, the swear words, and the occasional inappropriate joke, it should have been given a PG-13 rating. The comedy is built around an array of Western spoofs, low budget gags, and general unrelenting silliness, but behind all of that is enough heart and drama to make the whole story compelling and the movie enjoyable.
The movie stars Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short, at the height of their careers. I am admittedly not much of a Martin Short fan, but as his style tends to play toward his childishness / impishness, his younger self pulls that off admirably well here. Steve Martin and Chevy Chase are the stars of the film, with Martin justifying – both through his co-writing of the screenplay and his screwball comedic performance – his status as a comedy legend. Chase for his part has a gruff and charming leading-man quality, which provides a lot of punch to his often unexpected one-liners. I laughed out loud when Chase’s Dusty Bottoms asks, in Santa Poco, if there are other dining options than Mexican food. It’s one of those lines that work because of the delivery.
The movie gags go beyond the dialogue and the performances. One of the scenes includes a blatantly low-budget desert sunset poster backdrop. We are met also by ludicrous and funny background singing animals as the Amigos camp and play music under the stars. The costuming is part of the fun as well, with the Amigos wearing their shiny tight-fitting Hollywood duds in stark contrast with the normal poor clothing around them.
The blend of Elmer Bernstein’s Western score, mixed with Randy Newman’s sometimes sillier music, is yet another fun aspect of the film. The former really helps the audience feel immersed in a true traditional Hollywood Western setting, while the latter lets us know that we are making some fun of the genre. To the credit of all involved, the mockery is restrained. The goal of the film seems to be that everyone can laugh together, rather than to laugh at anyone or anything in particular, and on that front I believe they succeeded. Even el Guapo is funny and in possession of some redeeming attributes.
The element of this film that really makes it work for me is its heart. The screenplay wisely gives the audience a rooting interest. We want Carmen’s efforts to work because she is a good and pure character. The Three Amigos, silly, unprepared, and down-on-their-luck, summon the courage to help a woman and a town in need. They prove Carmen’s belief in them was well-placed. Along the way, they rally the town to help itself, too. The core of the story being told is a dramatic one, but the writers made that drama funny. All too often, comedies fail to work because they begin with the comedy and try to shoehorn the plot into it.
To that point, one of the best scenes in the film is the shootout at the end, with the people of Santa Poco wearing Amigos garb and in so doing, confusing El Guapo and his men on their way to victory. The scene worked, not just because it was absurd, but because there was heart and joy in it. The script had given us a reason to cheer for them (Carmen is wonderful, we have seen their suffering and disappointment, etc.) so we were primed to celebrate with them in their moment of triumph. Joy and laughter go well together.
A couple of other favorite scenes:
Lucky Day: [Lucky returning to group, now realizing that el Guapo and his gang, are real outlaws] It’s real.
Dusty Bottoms: What?
Lucky Day: This is real.
Ned Nederlander: You mean…
Lucky Day: Yes, they are going… to kill us.
[Amigos begin sobbing pathetically]
It’s difficult to pick a favorite, but I think this was the funniest moment of the movie.
Lucky Day: Dusty, how do you like your bat?
Dusty Bottoms: Medium rare.
This was a joke about eating bats decades before such things were more common place. Watching Chevy Chase eat the crispy bat wing cracked me up.
I have a unique relationship with this movie, given that I spent many years enduring my peers “cleverly” referring to me as Dusty Bottoms. (I have also been Dusty Rhodes as well.) The truth, though, is that I never particularly minded. Why wouldn’t one want to be one of the Three Amigos? My re-watch only confirms that belief. This is a funny movie, with a good dramatic plot, and I recommend that you check it out. Let me know what you think with a plethora of comments.