Friday, 11 August 2017

Retro Review: City Slickers (1991)

City Slickers
1991
Cast: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Jack Palance, Helen Slater
Genre: Western Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $180 million

Plot: On the verge of turning 40, an unhappy Manhattan yuppie is roped into joining his friends on a cattle drive in the southwest





'Comedy Not As Good, But The Rest Of It Is Not As Bad'

An amiable effort, but consistency-wise, it is a surprisingly unfunny film which was lauded by critics back in 1991, & watching it today, comedy-wise City Slickers hasn't held up well, although the rest of the movie was passable.

The film includes a young Jake Gyllenhaal as Mitch's son, Danny and is directed by the guy who did Tremors. Billy Crystal is yet another performer who divides people: his work has been a mixed bag altogether, although his characters are likeable and pleasant enough for me to enjoy. I think he tends to be better playing it straight, as his comedy style doesn't tend to work for me all of the time, though I did enjoy Running Scared, Throw Momma From The Train, Fathers' Day and America's Sweethearts.

The casting for this film baffles me: you have Billy Crystal who made his breakthrough on Saturday Night Live, you also have Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby - but for Home Alone, Stern's other appearances are forgettable and Bruno Kirby, all I know about him is he featured in Good Morning, Vietnam. Yet in Stern and Kirby, they are not exactly household names or actors who have a knack for comedy. Therefore, had City Slickers had a different and funnier ensemble alongside Billy and Jack Palance, the film would be far amusing than it is.

The scene where they try on hats was okay, but the scene where a young cow gives birth only for Palance's character to shoot the creature was not funny; rather I found it tasteless.

City Slickers is also supposedly a comedy, and yet it struggles to attain laughs. When I approached and looked at it as a general Western flick however, it was interesting, in places, but comedy-wise, it falls flat 90% of the time and as a supposed Western spoof, it has nothing on Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles.

I know I'm not the only one when I say this, but it seems to me the Academy Awards folk nominated this film for best comedy or something, and yet their record in nominating comedy films for awards has been mediocre. Let's face it, anything that isn't City Slickers or is low brow, silly stuff like Mrs Doubtfire, they will never hand out major awards for it besides for best makeup or costume design. They are movie snobs and which is why I have never based my movie preferences on awards wins, nominations and IMDb scores.

This film has a strange dissonance: though it's billed as a comedy, it has moments where the cow gives birth and where Mitch saves a calf from being swept by the tides, which was nice to see. And the last 10 mins was touching and sweet.

City Slickers is a tale of 3 middle-aged men, who head off to the Southwest to find meaning in their lives and discovering what they really want: Mitch Robbins works for a company that sells advertising for radio, but during his journey in the South, he questions the purpose of doing what he does and whether it is doing himself, and perhaps his loved ones any good. & then there are Mitch's buddies Ed and Phil, who like Mitch feel dissatisfied with their lives and need to feel inspired. The performances overall are great and there is no one bad performance from any of the cast members. Even though I wished that 2 other more established comedic actors were in place of Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby. 

It operates more on the lines of a serious drama which has 1 or 2 profound moments and at times, one gets the sense of what the characters are thinking and feeling. Yet it's a pity that comedy-wise, this is one area that needed more work.




Final Verdict:

City Slickers looks nice, but in all honesty, it is its laughs or lack thereof that doesn't do justice to a film labelled as a comedy. It definitely has its heart in the right place though and everything else wasn't as bad.


But with better and funnier actors than Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern, who didn't really sell it to me, to prop up the movie as support for Billy Crystal, in addition to having funnier material on hand, it would have benefited City Slickers a great deal and given it a comedic boost.


Overall:



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