During my youth, City Slickers had been a film that I watched with my parents only a few times. It was never something we watched annually or every few years. In fact, it had been so long since I last watched it that, during the recent re-watching, I couldn’t remember a single line or moment in it. Oddly enough, I remember one particular scene in its sequel, The Legend of Curly’s Gold, more than I did almost anything in the original. Save for the cartoonish opening credits, which I did remember, watching the original City Slickers recently felt like I had never seen it before. And why it’s been so long since I had watched it is beyond me. I was left nearly in stitches after the credits rolled.
On the surface, it may seem like a typical guys’ movie, as we follow three men (Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby) who take a vacation each year to do something extraordinary. But as you dig deeper into City Slickers, it becomes so much more. It’s more heartwarming than one would expect, and there’s plenty to laugh at as well.
It starts with the trio in Spain, participating in the running of the bulls. After the aforementioned opening credits, which are a real treat to watch, we get to the meat of these characters. Each one goes on the annual trip not just for Mitch’s (Crystal) birthday, but to also escape from the mundane that encompasses their everyday lives. For Mitch, it’s his job and the fear of a mid-life crisis. For Phil (Stern), it’s his loveless marriage. For Ed (Kirby), it’s the fear of settling down after becoming a newlywed.
Mitch doesn’t feel like going on an escape this year, but numerous circumstances lead his wife, Barbara (Patricia Wettig), to force him to go with his friends. They escape to a ranch that allows city people to be cowboys for two weeks. They’re not just acting like them with recreated scenarios; they are living and breathing the cowboy way. Their main guide is a man by the name of Curly (Jack Palance), a cowboy who has spent so many years doing his daily routine that he never once found love. Curly leads the three men and the others in the group from New Mexico to Colorado with a herd of cattle, which, in turn, has plenty of mishaps along the way.
What makes City Slickers work so well is the script by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. The one-liners and hilarious scenarios come at you fast and happen so often that it may take some time to recover from the laughter. But it’s not just the jokes that work. Crystal, Stern, and Kirby all have excellent chemistry together, as they try to act like how the characters in some of their favorite westerns would act and come to realize that the situations in the movies don’t always play out well in real life. This vacation also has them come to the realization of what they have in their lives and how they can better themselves as individuals for those around them.
As the hard-ridden cowboy, Palance is incredible to watch. He has a daily routine from which he doesn’t deter, and he can easily scare off the naïve city people who enter his territory. It’s quite fun to watch him interact with Crystal and the others.
Shout! Factory has done an excellent job with remastering the image quality of City Slickers to 4K, making it look pristine and with only a few minor grain issues. It also comes with a nice slip cover and a reversible sleeve. The biggest issue, though, is that all of the special features are from previous releases, and the quality of those drastically pale in comparison. The image on the features is noticeably choppy and distorted; making it seem like one is watching the videos online and with a poor internet connection.
While it may be a pity that the special features weren’t handled well, and there aren’t any new ones for the fans of the film, City Slickers is still one of the funniest comedies to be released. It’s also got a lot of heart and is surprisingly sweet. I can say that the 4K is impressive, and it may be worthy for those who want to upgrade. But I also have a feeling a 30th anniversary edition is just around the corner, and that will have newer features that look better than the ones on this disc.