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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - City Slickers

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  I watch a movie and blog about it, because I need something to do on the weekends.  This time out, I'm watching the 1991 classic City Slickers.  I watched this and reviewed it on December 16, 2018.

As I've blogged before, there are certain films where, when I see them, I'm hit with an overwhelming wave of, "I want this."  As was the case when I saw a brand new collector's edition of City Slickers.  Had no idea why I wanted it...just that I did.  And here we are. 

City Slickers is the beloved Billy Crystal comedy from 1991 about Crystal and his friends going on a cattle drive.  Famous for winning Jack Palance the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and his acceptance speech where he did the one-armed push-ups.  I don't think I'd seen it since VHS back in the early 90s, so I watched it pretty much with fresh eyes. 

Crystal plays Mitch, and he and his two best friends are going through various degrees of mid-life crises.  First there's Ed, played by Bruno Kirby.  Ed is a successful owner and manager of a sporting goods store.  He's always dragging his friends along on these daredevil vacations, and he just married an underwear model.  She's ready to have kids, Ed isn't, as he's worried about what kind of father he'll be.

Then there's Phil, played by Daniel Stern, fresh off his Home Alone fame.  He's stuck in a job he hates (manager of a grocery store), trapped in a loveless marriage, and it all comes crashing down when it's revealed that he's having an affair with a 20-year checkout girl (played by the voice of Lisa Simpson, Yeardley Smith, in a very memorable cameo.) 

And then there's Mitch.  Mitch is just feeling lost and adrift.  Hit kinda close to home because Mitch works in radio, in sales.  After allowing some truly dreadful copy on the air, he's cut off at the knees and now needs to have everything approved by the GM.  He laments to his wife, "What do I do?  I sell air.  I have nothing to show at the end of the day."  Yeah, thought that a few times as I drift off to sleep. 

Anyway, at Mitch's 39th birthday, Ed announces their latest daredevil vacation:  they're going out west to learn how to be cowboys and work on a real cattle drive.  Mitch is reluctant to go, but his wife encourages him, to help him sort out what's wrong. 

And here's where things kick into high gear, when we arrive out west.  That's where we meet Curly, the crusty old trail boss, as played by Palance.  Needless to say, they don't get along at first, with Curly not taking to Mitch's jokey demeanor, and Mitch just being intimidated by Curly's gruffness.  But, they eventually have to go off on their own together to round up some strays, where they talk it out and become fast friends. 

And that's kind of the thing about this film.  You'd expect a whole bunch of slapstick comedy given the premise, but it's actually very talky and character-driven, as our protagonists just talk out their problems while riding the range. 

My only one quibble has to be that we really don't get to know the supporting cast, and the other people on the cattle drive.  There's a father and son pair of dentists who are doing this try to bond.  The original Supergirl herself, Helen Slater, is a woman who was supposed to be doing this with her boyfriend, but they broke up at the airport and she decided to go through with it.  It would have been nice to see their journeys as well. 

Well, Curly dies of a heart attack halfway though the ride, the rest of the professional cowboys on the ride turn out to be drunken a-holes who scare and eventually abandon our heroes.  The rest of the group decide to head back to civilization, but Mitch, Ed, and Phil decide to see it through and see exactly what they're made of. 

Needless to say, now that I, myself, am middle aged, I got a lot more out of City Slickers than when I first saw it all those years ago.  I found it very entertaining, and a worthwhile addition to my collection.

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