City Slickers Review

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Businessmen Phil, Ed and Mitch are each having a midlife crisis. They decide to go on a two week break to the wild west where they meet Curly who teaches his reluctant new charges how to become real cowboys.


Mitch, Phil and Ed (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby) are not entirely at home on the range. This trio of mid-life, middle-class, middlingly-successful city folk have signed on as temporary cowpokes to drive a herd of cattle through untamed New Mexico as some sort lesiure activity (last year’s vacation was bull running in Spain).

However, this year the threesome have more on their minds than merely an adventure, as their everyday circumstances have taken unforseen turns: regular guy Mitch feels his life and marriage have stagnated; perennial bachelor Ed is about to get hitched; and the mild-mannered, hen-pecked Phil has been caught doing the wild thing with a teenage employee.

Thus notion of an innocents abroad-ish slapstick gets replaced by the prospect of a voyage-of-self-discovery and the deeply less-than-amusing Thirtysomething landscape looms worryingly large. Mercifully though, City Slickers chooses to focus on the absurdities of their situations both at home — Mitch’s major worry is hair in his ears — and on the prairie — the mumblingly self-conscious “Yee-hahs” as they set off are a joy to watch.

While this sending up of onset of middle age angst is hardly Allenesque in aridity, it’s enough to afford less-sensitive types a good laugh, but still give Hope & co’s fans something to over-analyse, and means that our heroes’ eventual coming to terms with life and its values, thanks to weatherbeaten trail boss Curly (Jack Palance in necessarily overly-weatherbeaten mode), can remain a reasonably dry-eyed affair.

Of course, interwoven with this strand of, er, thoughtful comedy, the moments of sheer stupidity are manifold. Every western cliché comes under the cosh — the stampede, the disrespectin’ of womenfolk, the fording a swollen stream, the drunken chuck wagon driver, the birth of a calf etc, etc.

And, lest we forget that these guys who Mitch describes as looking like “one of The Village People” should have more than just tender feet, the scene after the first riding lesson involves icepacks on groins.

Witty one-liners one-liners crackle and cowboy cliches are given a good kicking as the three stars give excellent accounts of themselves.