Ring-of-truth humor, Crystal's timing lift 'City Slickers' above ordinary

December 06, 1991|By Josh Mooney


0$ RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video


"City Slickers" is slick all right -- a real Hollywood-style button puncher of a comedy that has something for everyone. It's well-crafted and predictable, but then star Billy Crystal is known for his entertainment value, not his artistic aspirations.

One look at the film's credits should tell what's to come: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell, the writers behind Ron Howard hits like "Splash" and "Parenthood," have taken the western motif (the rage since "Dances With Wolves") and cleverly mingled it with a midlife urban male crisis theme.

Mr. Crystal and Bruno Kirby, the two pals from "When Harry Met Sally," team up with pal No. 3, Daniel Stern, co-star of "Home Alone" and narrator of "The Wonder Years." They play middle-aged neurotic New Yorkers who are still defined by a fairly adolescent dilemma: failure to commit, fear of fatherhood, fear of growing up. They are not heroic portraits of men, as Mr. Crystal's on-screen wife, played by "thirtysomething's" Patricia Wettig, will be the first to tell you.

As a present for Mr. Crystal's 40th birthday, his pals surprise him with a trip to a Southwestern dude ranch for some male bonding and perhaps the kind of rugged hands-on jolt needed to set them all straight.

As you might guess, they get more than they bargained for, from antagonistic trail boss Curly (veteran movie cowboy Jack Palance) to the kind of natural disaster confrontations they'd previously seen only in cowboy movies.

While the getting-back-to nature and finding yourself themes are nothing new and none too subtly handled, they are nicely tempered with the same enjoyable ring-of-truth humor that lifted "Parenthood" and "Splash" above the ordinary.

Mr. Crystal's comic timing has never been better; Mr. Kirby uses his New York schlep mannerisms and voice to portray hilarious displacement out in the wilderness, and Mr. Stern, perhaps best known (unfortunately) for his bad-guy turn in "Home Alone," reminds us of the promise he showed in much earlier films like "Diner" and "Breaking Away."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.