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Featured Blu-ray Review: Three Amigos!

November 20th, 2011

Three Amigos - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Three Amigos came out in theaters 25 years ago. ... Really? Suddenly I feel really old. This is a film I loved when it first came out, but it has been more a decade since I saw it. Every time I get a chance to review a movie like this, I'm filled with a little trepidation. While I have very fond memories of the movie, there's a chance watching it with more mature eyes will crush those memories. It's happened in the past and I'm worried it will happen here. After all, the film has earned only mixed reviews. Maybe it's better than its reputation. Maybe it's an undervalued gem.

The Movie

The film begins with the Three Amigos, Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander singing on their horses. These three men are not cowboys, but actors. Unfortunately, the villagers of Santo Poco, Mexico don't know that. The village of Santo Poco is under threat from El Guapo, a gang leader, who is demanding money from the citizens for protection. When Carmen and Rodrigo come into the nearest town looking for help, they find the men there are unwilling to help. When they go to the church to pray, they see a silent film being shown. The film is one of many made by The Three Amigos and, like the rest of their films, it shows them riding into town, defeating a ruthless gang and refusing any reward. These are the men that will save Santo Poco from El Guapo. They immediately send a telegram offering 100,000 peso for their help in defeating the horrible, evil, murdering, villainous monster El Guapo, but because they only have ten pesos, they are a little vague in their request.

When Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander get the message, they had just been fired by the studio head, Harry Flugleman, and are in desperate need of money. They see the telegram as a request to put on a personal appearance, not fight off a villainous gang leader. It sounds like a dream job and they leave as soon as they steal their Amigos costumes from the studio.

Just before they get into town, a man known only as The German arrives and informs the people in the cantina that his friends will arrive shortly and they are to lead them to El Guapo. Of course, the Three Amigos are mistaken for these men and a comedy of errors ensues. When they are finally brought to Santo Poco, they still think it is all an act. They think they are just there to put on a show. Fortunately for them, the three gang members are, well, not exactly scared off by their performance. More confused than scared. The three gang members ride off to tell El Guapo what they saw, while the Three Amigos stay and are treated like heroes. Unfortunately for them, the next day El Guapo himself returns, with lots of his men. It is at this point the Three Amigos realize what is actually going on and are quickly chased off. Worse still, Carmen is kidnapped by El Guapo and is going to be forced to marry him during his 40th birthday celebration.

Will the Three Amigos run away? Or will they become real life heroes? Answering those questions would take us into spoiler territory, which is too bad, because we haven't even gotten to where the film really takes off.

While watching Three Amigos for the first time in many, many years, I was struck by two things. Firstly, the movie is broader than I remember it. The comedy is slapstick in nature, which I remembered accurately, but the acting lacks a certain subtlety. Secondly, Galaxy Quest is practically a remake of this film. From the out of work actors being mistaken for real life heroes, to the actors mistaking the job as just an acting gig, to the initial success, the big failure and then rising to the occasion at the end. Another similarity is the quality, as this movie is very funny. Although it is not quite as funny as Galaxy Quest is. I think this is partly because I grew up on Star Trek, while Westerns were not my genre of choice.

It does get its humor from a difference source. Despite the fact that Three Amigos takes place in a lot more real setting, the film is a lot less realistic in most ways. Not only is the acting broad, but some of the scenes are done in a way that break suspension of disbelief. For instance, there is a musical number in the prairie at night with an obviously painted background. When Dusty starts to sing, it's a studio recording and not just him and his guitar. And then the animals start singing with them. It's a very funny scene and the musical humor is one of the film's strengths, but it is a little out there and it is a little difficult to enjoy the characters interactions as much. As I've said before about many different films, when the characters become caricatures, the film as a whole suffers. The film needed to either go full madcap energy all the time or stick with a more straight presentation.

One of the best characters in the film is El Guapo. His interactions with the put-upon second in command, Jefe, are certainly highlights of the movie. "But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else and are looking to take it out on me?" The whole, "Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?", scene is hilarious. That line probably ranks as my third favorite in the movie. The top two are "We pruned the hedges of many small villages." and "You've killed the invisible swordsman." "How was I supposed to know where he was?"

The film is definitely better than its Tomatometer Score would indicate and it deserves to be seen by more people.

The Extras

The last time the film was released on the home market was in 1999 and the DVD was a mess. There were no special features, there were problems with the print, it was non-anamorphic and it cut out partway through the credits. Fortunately, the Blu-ray corrects all of those problems. There are not a lot of extras on the Blu-ray, but there is an archival interview with the three leading men. There are also 19 minutes of deleted scenes, mostly from the beginning of the movie showing El Guapo attacking the village and the Three Amigos' life in Hollywood. As for the film's technical presentation, the film looks very good, given its age. Details are usually very strong, although there are some scenes that have a little too much grain, while there are others where it appears DNR was used. Keep in mind, the opening is supposed to be heavy on the grain for aesthetic purposes, while the DNR never gets out of hand. Additionally, the colors are strong, blacks are deep and there are not instances of print damage or compression issues. It's easily the best it has looked since its theatrical run. The audio is uncomplicated. The film was originally shot in 2.0 stereo, so the 5.1 surround sound track is not very immersive. The score is generally the only thing you will hear from the rear speakers. The dialogue is clear, while the bass is active. Finally, the Blu-ray only costs $10.49 on, which is a great price for this type of release.

The Verdict

Three Amigos opened at a time when Westerns were at a low point at the box office. This partially explains why the film never really connected with audiences initially. However, I'm glad to see it has aged very well and it is as funny as I remember it. There are not a lot of extras on the Blu-ray (I was looking forward to an audio commentary track), but it is easily worth the price.

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