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City Slickers (1991, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern)

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Gags fly thicker than bullets in a Leone movie in comedy western City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal (on whose story the screenplay was based), Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby as Mitch, Phil and Ed, three urban buddies who seek to exorcise their mid-life crises by spending their annual two-week holiday on a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. At the dude ranch, they team up with an assortment of other holidaymakers, including Bonnie (Helen Slater), under the guidance of leathery trail boss Curly (Jack Palance).

When the drive starts, the city slickers are inept drovers – Mitch sets off a stampede with his portable coffee grinder – but gradually Curly begins to teach them how to appreciate life and to believe in old western values. But when Curly dies suddenly, Phil and Ed intend to abort the mission. However, Mitch insists that they continue with the drive and, as they progress, he realises the value of his marriage and family. Womaniser Ed admits he really loves his wife and newly-divorced Phil starts a relationship with Bonnie. Finally Mitch leads the group as they successfully help the cattle to ford a raging river and deliver the herd to the Colorado ranch.

‘I call this my ‘coming of middle age movie’, said Crystal, who passed his plot notes to Mandel and Ganz, who ‘supplied me with a very funny script that remained faithful to the storyline’. The sharply observed, often moving screenplay gives the film genuine realism, making it more than simply a comic, gag-filled western in the tradition of, say, Paleface . The characters are credible and driving direction by Ron Underwood never loses sight of the key characters or abandons them in favour of a smart joke. Palance creates a character who brilliantly and believably embodies the beliefs and behaviour of the old west and, as a result, was rightly rewarded with the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor.

production details
USA | 112 minutes | 1991

Director: Ron Underwood
Writers: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandell, from a story by Billy Crystal

cast
Josh Mostel as Barry Shalowitz
David Paymer as Ira Shalowitz
Helen Slater as Bonnie Rayburn
Mickie McGowan as Additional Dialogue Replacement (voice)
Frank Welker as Special Vocal Effects (voice)
Bruno Kirby as Ed Furillo
Patricia Wettig as Barbara Robbins
Jack Palance as Curly Washburn
Jeffrey Tambor as Lou
Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins
Daniel Stern as Phil Berquist
Noble Willingham as Clay Stone
Tracey Walter as Cookie
Phill Lewis as Dr. Steven Jessup
Karla Tamburrelli as Arlene Berquist
Robert Costanzo as Sal
Jake Gyllenhaal as Danny Robbins
Walker Brandt as Kim Furillo
Lindsay Crystal as Holly Robbins
Molly McClure as Millie Stone
Jane Alden as Mrs. Green
Danielle Harris as Classroom Student
Alan Charof as Mitch’s Dad
Yeardley Smith as Nancy

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