'City Slickers': THR's 1991 Review
On June 7, 1991, Columbia Pictures unveiled buddy comedy City Slickers in theaters nationwide, where it became a summer hit. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Both city and country folk will be stampeding into the theaters to see the uproarious City Slickers. Billy Crystal forgets about Sally and learns about friendship and driving cattle in this funny buddy-buddy-buddy flick.
Certain to be one of this summer's biggest hits, City Slickers provides plenty of laughs and several one-liners that will be repeatedly heard throughout the coming months. After some of the recent tame and lame films that have arrived on the scene, City Slickers is a welcome treat.
Crystal plays Mitch Robbins, a radio ad sales exec who, having just turned 39, realizes he is bored with his life. This is as good as it's going to get, and that frightens him. Yes, it's the old mid-life crisis thing.
To the rescue come best friends Ed (Bruno Kirby) and Phil (Daniel Stern), who convince Mitch to go with them on a two-week cattle drive. Mitch is hesitant, but his tolerant wife (Patricia Wettig) insists he go find his smile.
And so the adventure begins. At the ranch they say howdy to their fellow guest drivers: two ice cream entrepreneur brothers, a father and son dentist team and the obligatory pretty dudette.
Everything looks like it might be fun and games until they meet their trail boss, Curly (Jack Palance), an alleged killer who looks like a "saddle bag with eyes." He frightens them, particularly Mitch, into taking the cattle drive seriously.
Along the way most of what transpires is predictable and manipulative. But besides the formula stuff, there is an abundance of fresh humor, poignant dialogue and some rather credible performances.
Crystal has mastered that "everyman" look that makes him exceptionally easy to identify with. Along with his easy-going manner and precise comic timing, this helps to make his performance, for the most part, a natural one. At times, he can't help from mugging or forcing a funny line that feels out of place, but it's easily forgivable since we find ourselves laughing anyway.
Stern, after all that shouting in Coupe de Ville, quiets down effectively as the sheepish, I-have-no-life Phil. His non-life is also coming apart at the seams, and he portrays this with a nice mix of pathos and Jerry Lewis.
The most fully realized character and performance, however, belongs to Kirby. This fine actor has proven himself to extremely adept at comedy while maintaining a serious underside. The genuine chemistry between these three actors loses nothing in its translation to the screen.
Last, but not least, is Palance. His caricature of the dozens of cowboys he's played over the years is played with finesse and tongue-in-cheek. He's a good foible for these city slickers.
The film has a few rough spots and spends too much time setting up premises, but it's a small price to pay for the enjoyment it provides. Mitch may or may not find his smile, but you won't be able to lose yours. City Slickers is one cattle drive you won't want to miss. — Jeff Menell, originally published on May 30, 1991.