I was maybe 12 or 13 when I first experienced CITY SLICKERS and at that time, it was nothing more to me than a standard fish-out-of-water comedy. And since I didn’t find it funny, I never bothered to revisit it until a few days ago when I checked out the new Shout! Factory Blu-ray release. Needless to say, watching the movie so many years later allowed me to view it through much older eyes and therefore gave me a new appreciation for the film.
I don’t find Billy Crystal to be that funny of a comedian and in fact, sometimes his comedy schtick can get on my nerves. But he’s actually very underrated for his ability to blend a slight humor with more serious undertones. He did it with THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and several other films. It’s that blend of comedy and drama that impressed me most about CITY SLICKERS and as a near 40-year-old, the drama and the characters were what made me love the film.
The idea is fairly simple; three middle-aged men are all in various stages of their life. Mitch (Crystal) is a loving father and husband, but he’s in a rut and he thinks he’s miserable. Phil (Stern) is in a miserable marriage whose wife just caught him having an affair. Ed (Bruno Kirby) is a lifelong playboy, who just got married. Anxious to get away from it all, the three of them take a two-week vacation to New Mexico, to live the cowboy life and drive cattle to Colorado.
The trailers and most of what you see today about CITY SLICKERS focuses on the fish-out-of-water aspect of the film. And it’s true that a lot of the comedy revolves around three city folk trying to learn the ways of a cowboy over the course of two weeks. But all of that is just a backdrop to the life changing realizations the three friends come to on their journey. Of course, every journey needs a spiritual guide and these three, Mitch in particular, has Curly (Jack Palance) to aid him along the way with the simple rule that the secret to life is just “one thing”. The relationship between Curly and Mitch is surprisingly heartfelt and effective, even if it is too brief.
The heart of CITY SLICKERS is what carries the film, even when some of the comedy falls flat. I know I’m late to the CITY SLICKERS game, but I think it works well when you go in expecting a slightly deeper film than just a bunch of wanting to watch a bunch of wannabe cowboys fumble their way through a cattle drive. Virtually every middle-aged man can relate to at least one of the three friends and when you couple that with some great performances, especially the scene-stealing Jack Palance, this is a 27 year-old film that truly stands the test of time.
Video: I can’t compare this to any previous editions, but since this is a new 4K transfer for 2018, my assumption is this is the best looking version of CITY SLICKERS anyone has seen since the theater.
Audio: The 5.1 DTS HD mix is very well done.
This Blu-ray edition has all of the special features from the previous Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.