When I first read the title of this movie, I thought it would be some kind of hardened cop movie where they chased down some kind of serial murderer. It’s not. It’ so not. It’s almost the opposite, and it is a perfect feel-good Sunday afternoon movie (yes, movies have times and days.)
Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby are three city men, Mitch, Phil and Ed respectively. Bored with their city lives they decide to go on holiday to the Mid West and take part in a cattle drive, lead by Curly (Jack Palance). At first incapable of anything cowboy related, they are trained up along with a group of other ‘city slickers’ (geddit?) before heading out into the hills with a herd of cattle. What follows is a series of funny and heartwarming life lessons.
What makes this film is the chemistry between the characters, particularly Mitch and Curly. The development of their relationship (though rather predictable) from fear (on Mitch’s side) to respect (on both sides) is carefully handled and terribly sweet. Then there are the other tourists; two ice cream heroes, a dentist and his son and a woman. One of the best scenes in the movie is when the gang are sitting around a campfire, challenging ice cream men Barry and Ira (Josh Mostel and David Paymer) to think of the perfect ice cream flavour for any meal (“Rum Raisin!”). There is a whole host of nifty one-liners (“I crap bigger than you” and “Did you see how leathery he was? He was like a saddlebag with eyes!”) and even the birth of a calf called Norman to keep you entertained.
It’s not long before the group is thrown into deep water when something unexpected happens (not going to give away spoilers). It is here when all the life lessons begin – finish what you started, don’t give up, and if you want to be a cowboy you have to learn how to lasso things. Thankfully though, the funny keeps on coming as the situations they get thrown into become absurd and western cliches are taken full advantage of (yes, stampedes really do happen.)
City Slickers is a sweet film, but you do have to like Billy Crystal to watch it. Thankfully I do, and I now know what to do in a mid life crisis.