Case Number 22841


HBO // 1986 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 1st, 2011

The Charge

"You shot the invisible swordsman!"

Opening Statement

Some movies are overnight sensations. Others take time to grow by word of mouth. Then there are films like Three Amigos! which take a quarter of a century to become the comedy classic it is today. Now you too can enjoy the singing bush, the dastardly El Guapo, and a delicate kiss on the veranda as Three Amigos! finally makes its debut on Blu-ray care of HBO Home Entertainment.

Facts of the Case

It's 1916 and Lucky Day (Steve Martin, Cheaper by the Dozen), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase, Fletch), and Ned "Little Neddy" Needlelander (Martin Short, Innerspace) are the world's most famous acting trio, known to their devoted fans as "The Three Amigos." Their silent films -- westerns featuring the men in heroic poses and adventures -- are the hit of Goldsmith Studios. Yet when the studio boss, Mr. Flugelman (Joe Mantegna, Thinner), angrily fires his stars, they find themselves unemployed and in need of work. In the nick of time, a telegram from the Mexican village of Santa Poco arrives asking the Amigos to help rid the residents of the terrorizing El Guapo (Alfonso Arrau). Thinking it's an acting gig, the Amigos take the job, only to learn the villagers have taken our heroes silent movies as fact instead of fiction. Now the three bumbling thespians are in for the fight of their lives, without the benefit of a dress rehearsal!

The Evidence

Three Amigos! started off as a dud and has slowly but surely become one of the biggest cult comedy classics in recent memory. Sure, it took almost 25 years to get there, but there's no denying it's a movie many, many people love and can instantly quote ("Sew old like the wind!").

There is a whip smart attitude within John Landis' comedy that's due to a number of factors. The most important is the three leads. Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short are all at the top of their game here, each pulling their own weight and bringing such fun to the movie that it makes for -- dare I say? -- a truly perfect comedy.

Three Amigos! would end up being one of Chevy Chase's final great movies before spiraling off into an abyss of mostly bad, banal comedies. His Dusty Bottoms is a great mix of Chevy being Chevy (the scene where he drinks from a full water canteen, while his partners dehydrate in front of him is priceless) and romantic whimsy (Chase ends up being the romantic lead). Much like Chase, Steven Martin is playing a variation on himself (often smug, often silly) and does so to great effect. Martin is more or less the straight man with some of the best timed reactions of his career. Three Amigos! was one of Martin Short's first films and, while the actor has never attained the status of Chase or Martin, he's equally as funny, often vacuously beaming for the camera.

As if being a great comedy weren't enough, Three Amigos! also features some of the funniest work of composer/lyricist Randy Newman's career. Although primarily known for his pop songs and film scores, Newman snagged a writing credit for Three Amigos! and truly deserved it; some of his musical tunes are absolute gut busters. "My Little Buttcup" and "Shadows on the Trail" (complete with singing horses) makes me smile every time I think of them. Director John Landis (no stranger to comedy with movies like Spies Like Us, Animal House, and The Blues Brothers under his belt) is astonishingly able to juggle all of the elements -- singing, dancing, comedy, gunfights, romance, and a singing bush! -- that even when they shouldn't work, they do.

If it sounds like I'm lavishing Three Amigos! with praise, well...I am. Unabashedly so. It's hard for me to look impartially on this movie. I've loved it since I was a kid and have many friends who feel the same way. We have spent countless hours in the presence of Lucky, Dusty, and Neddy, doing the Amigos salute, quoting some of our favorite lines ("Nada...isn't that a light chicken gravy?"), and -- when the moment strikes us -- sitting down and revisiting one of the greatest westerns ever made.

Three Amigos! is presented in 1.85:1/1080p high definition widescreen; though, to be honest, I was slightly disappointed with this transfer. While the look is certainly heads and shoulders above any previous releases (the DVD was non-anamorphic, for crying out loud!), it still never feels as sharp and clear as it could. The image retains a lot of filmic grain, which is fine except it sometimes feels soft and out of focus. Complaints aside, I am happy to finally see this movie get a high-def treatment, even if it is slightly imperfect.

The soundtrack is presented in a very good DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix which more than sufficiently gets the job done. The track kicks in the heaviest during the musical numbers and does a nice job spreading out ambient noise during key scenes. Although this isn't an overly aggressive mix, it's certainly worth the upgrade. Also included on this release are English, French, and Spanish subtitles, as well as a French DTS 2.0 mix and a Spanish DTS Mono mix.

Fans of Three Amigos! will be thrilled to see the film finally get a special edition, or as close to a special edition as they're going to get. Included in this package is a vintage cast interview with Chase, Martin, and Short (running about six minutes long), almost twenty minutes of deleted scenes (many of them omitted for obvious reasons, but amusing nonetheless), and a nice reprint of an article from an Empire Magazine reuniting the three stars and director John Landis.

What can I say? I love Three Amigos!

The Verdict

An essential buy for any '80s comedy fan.

Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 83
Extras: 87
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (French)
* DTS 1.0 Mono (Spanish)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Deleted Scenes
* Vintage Interview
* Magazine Reprint

* IMDb