johnlink ranks CITY SLICKERS (1991)

Objectivity failure alert: I love this movie. Though I haven’t seen it in probably a decade, this was one of my favorite comedies of my early teen years. I must have watched this thing thirty to forty times in high school. For me, the top three Billy Crystal movies are CITY SLICKERS, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, and MONSTERS INC. Crystal may not have done a ton of movies over his career, but those three are each absolute classics in their respective genre.

I watched CITY SLICKERS (1991) on 2.12.12. It was roughly my fortieth viewing of the film.

Like LION KING, I can more easily point out what is wrong with this movie, because it is a short list.

1) The stampede sucks (the cow stampede, not the opening Running of the Bulls, which is hilarious). Poorly and unrealistically edited. I wouldn’t be surprised if Director Ron Underwood looks back at that moment as the one he really should have fixed.

2) The motivations of the cowboys, the closest thing we have to villains in this movie, are muddy at best. I don’t buy that they suddenly are so unprofessional if they would have worked so long for such nice people.

3) Daniel Stern’s wife. Don’t buy it. Not a good actress. Weak sauce.

That’s it. That’s my list. Sure, the rest of this isn’t amazing, earth-shattering film making but I give it credit for having way more heart and soul than most comedies of its time (the same can be said about WHEN HARRY MET SALLY), and I appreciate that every major character in this really is a fully fleshed-out person.

Jack Palance is a revelation in this. He won a best supporting actor Oscar, in a comedy-western, with very little screen time. He really does all his best work in two scenes with Billy Crystal. Fortunately, this led to one of the best Oscar acceptance speeches of all time.

Watching this for the first time in awhile led to a couple of new things for me. First, I didn’t know Jeffrey Tambor or Jake Gyllenhaal at the time, and both appear. Tambor as Crystal’s boss and Gyllenhaal as Crystal’s nine-year-old son. Secondly, it occured to me on this viewing that Curly may have known all along that he was dying, and picked Mitch as the guy he was going to pass his legacy on to. All the stuff about the secret of life, love, what is and is not important… I think he wanted to find someone to share his knowledge with, and Mitch proved worthy enough.

The writing in this movie really is superb. The characters are mostly all well fleshed out, and the story flows very smoothly. This is a two hour movie which feels one hour long. The one liners in this are amazing. I didn’t realize how many have stuck in my lexicon two decades later. There are more laugh-out-loud moments in this than in most comedies, plus it has a hell of a big heart. About to turn 30, the message about trying to hang on too long to your youth certainly resonates more than it ever did as a kid. And it is not told heavy-handedly. It’s just well done.

I’m not sure where this movie sits in the public conscious. For me, it is the best comedy-western ever made (edging out BLAZING SADDLES) and one of the top films of the 90s. I’ve been of the opinion lately that CITY SLICKERS must have been a guilty pleasure for me. But watching it again, for the first time in a decade, it really is an excellent movie.







~ by johnlink00 on February 13, 2012.

One Response to “johnlink ranks CITY SLICKERS (1991)”

  1. […] BATMAN BEGINS, the well spoken RESERVOIR DOGS, the classic RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC, an old favorite CITY SLICKERS, vintage Cruise in A FEW GOOD MEN, a great cat-and-mouse story CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, the best of the […]

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