A plethora of jokes
One of the funniest of all Westerns, this movie is just right. Directed by John Landis and written by Steve Martin and producer Lorne Michaels, it is witty, funny, fun and ineffably silly.
Mexico, 1916. Once we get past the classic mistaken-identity gag, the plot is simply The Magnificent Three, as Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short save a poor Mexican village from a marauding bandit.
Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
...the three amigos!
The Calvera figure is El Guapo (Alfonso Arau, ex-Wild Bunch villain, very good) and his chief henchman, also well done, is Jefe (Tony Plana). The village was apparently the same one used in The Magnificent Seven, although it doesn’t look like it.
It is a toss-up as to whether the amigos are dumber than the bandits. There’s an excellent German arms dealer, Wild Bunch-like (Kai Wulff), complete with dueling scar, and an obligatory señorita, Patrice Martinez, for Steve to fall for, though in the end it turns out not to be his lucky day.
The bartender is billed as Fred Asparagus but looks rather like Cheech Marin (probably practicing for his bartender role in Desperado). The amigos were to have been Martin, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi, and with Landis behind the camera that would have been quite something, but Chase and Short do a great job too. Bill Murray and Robin Williams were also considered. Murray would have been good.
It has a plethora of jokes. Most of them are corny but it's the haut-corn that makes it. You could kiss me on the veranda/The lips would be fine.
And it teaches us a lot. As Lucky tells us, "In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo... But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo." Deep, man.
The songs (and some of the script) are by Randy Newman and great. In fact all the music is high class. Elmer Bernstein did the score. There are some lovely colors, too. Ronald W Browne shot it in Arizona, round Old Tucson. Of course they have to ride off into the sunset. The sunset scene where they camp out is hilariously corny.
It has an exclamation point in the title so is a priori excluded as a good Western by the world-famous Arnold Laughable Exclamation Point Hypothesis (ALEPH), but as it has two and the first one is upside down, it is excused.
The picture got some snooty reviews from dolts who thought it wasn't funny.