It's a good thing for Billy Crystal that he's such a funny, likeable guy. Because whether he's discussing orgasms with Meg Ryan or roping a steer with Jack Palance, he always plays the same character: a nebbishy, angst-filled urban shlub with a slightly more positive outlook on life than Woody Allen, who gets through life on the strength of his smile and smart remarks. In other words, himself. Crystal found the perfect vehicle for that persona in City Slickers, a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy about a New Yorker coping with a mid-life crisis. He stars as Mitch Robbins, a baseball-loving family man who, on his 39th birthday, loses all interest in his life, both at home and at work. In attempt to jumpstart things, he and his best friends Phil (Daniel Stern) and Ed (Bruno Kirby) embark on a fantasy vacation. For two weeks, they'll make like John Wayne and learn to be cowboys, driving a herd of cattle from New Mexico to Colorado. And they do despite arguments, an intimidating trail boss (Jack Palance, in an Oscar-winning performance), a fierce thunderstorm, and assorted other obstacles. Along the way, they have plenty of time to discuss classic Crystal topics like relationships, sex, and baseball; indeed, for a "western," City Slickers is a fairly talky movie, but the talk is funny enough (and the action scenes frequent enough) that it's not a problem. The cast is great: Kirby and Stern are perfect as Phil and Ed, both of whom are going through life crises of their own, Palance oozes authenticity as Curly (he tells Mitch with a perfectly straight face, "I crap bigger 'n you"), and David Paymer and Josh Mostel are funny as Ben-and-Jerry-esque ice cream moguls Ira and Barry Shalowitz. All in all, City Slickers is one of the most satisfying comedies of the '90s, offering both laughs and, without being too sentimental about it, a positive message about living life to the fullest. It looks good on MGM's DVD, too. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is crisp and clear a drawback during the somewhat messy calving scene, perhaps, but a definite plus the rest of the time and the audio, offered in both stereo and mono tracks, is adequate if not spectacular. Other language options include a French mono track and French and Spanish subtitles. The disc's only other extras are scene selection and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
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