City Slickers (1991)

<strong class="MovieTitle">City Slickers</strong> (1991)

(Second viewing, On Cable TV, June 2018) I hadn’t seen City Slickers since the mid-nineties, and I had forgotten quite a bit about it—including what makes it so good. Beyond Jack Palance’s tough-cowboy performance (which led to an Oscar win and the infamous one-armed push-up acceptance speech that I saw on live TV) and Billy Crystal’s usual nebbish charm, City Slickers is built around a solid core of personal rediscovery, as well as an accompanying constellation of recurring gags, strong comic personalities playing off each other, and more throwaway gags than I remembered. Crystal is great, but the ensemble around him also works wonders at driving the film forward. Deftly playing with western archetypes and references (most specifically to Red River, which does make a good accompanying feature), it’s also a very nineties comedy film touching upon modern alienation and the value of manhood in a cerebral urban environment—seeing characters abruptly thrust into a different context is always good for a few laughs. The ending is a bit pat in the way it resorts to familiar action-movie theatrics as a shortcut to self-actualization, but that’s the way these things go: City Slickers is meant to entertain, not radically question our assumptions. It succeeds at what it tries to do.

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