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Monday, October 15, 2018

'City Slickers' Blu-ray: Crystal-Clear Why This Comedy About Urban Cowboys Speaks to All of Us

A combination of laziness and of "I could not have said it better myself" is behind allowing the Shout Select division of good friend of classic and cult fanboys Shout! Factory to speak for itself regarding the October 16, 2018 Collector's Edition release of the Oscar-winning 1991 comedy "City Slickers." 

The mission statement on the back-cover of the "Slickers" Blu-ray provides an excellent sense of the raison d'etre of these releases. "Designed with the film lover in mind, SHOUT SELECT shines a light on films that deserve a spot on your shelf. From acknowledged classics to cult favorites to unheralded gems, SHOUT SELECT celebrates the best in filmmaking, giving the love and attention they deserve. Past recipients of that adoration include "The Moderns" and the noir double-feature "Farewell My Lovely" and "The Big Sleep."

One more bit of necessary housekeeping before sharing thoughts on "Slickers" itself is that the film looks mahvelous, simply mahvelous in this 4K restoration. The bright lights far from the big city are indescribably vibrant. This is not mention contrasts such as red-toned rugged terrain and clothing such as a colorful bandana and a New York Yankees cap set against a literally sky-blue sky.

The numerous bonus features, which include audio commentary by stars Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern, are the icing on the cake. A 28-minute documentary "Back in the Saddle: 'City Slickers' Revisited" alone provides incredible background on the film. Crystal himself discusses his being reborn to make this movie. 

Veteran comedy writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel show good instincts regarding the challenge of providing exposition and grabbing the attention of the audience. The first scenes are of radio ad salesman Mitch Robbins (Crystal) and his two best friends running with the bulls at Pamplona. It is clear that they are American tourists in over their heads and that sporting-goods salesman/womanizing cradle robber Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby) is the instigator. The third stooge is henpecked Phil Berquist (Stern), who is a manager at a grocery store that his father-in-law owns.

A nice ode to comedies of the '60s and early '70s comes when this cold open leads to entertaining animated credits that further help keep eyes glued to the screen. The original "Pink Panther" films are the textbook examples of this technique.

An intertitle roughly 15 minutes into the film tells the audience that it is a year later. This day is notable as the 39th birthday of Mitch; a literal rude awakening is the first in a series of events that are devastating to Mitch and hilarious to the audience. It is apt that Mitch would have been better off staying in bed.

This onset of a mid-life crisis for Mitch coincides with his buddies buying him a two-week trip going on a Colorado cattle drive. His loving wife, whom the special features tell us is based on the real-life Mrs. Billy Crystal, convinces him to get back in the saddle after life has knocked him off  the horse.

Ganz and Mandel continue showing why they get the big bucks when we meet the fellow titular urbanites who accompany the three friends on the adventure. Josh Mostel and David Paymer play a paper-thinly disguised Ben and Jerry of ice cream fame, we also get a father and son who practice dentistry together, and original film Supergirl Helen Slater as the odd-woman out.

Anyone with any familiarity with "Slickers" knows that Jack Palance steals the show in his Oscar-winning role as no-nonsense trail boss Curly. The aforementioned bonuses include Crystal entertainingly discuss what happens when Jack meets Billy.

Hilarity fully gets underfoot on the drive when Mitch inadvertently causes a stampede. After the dust literally and figuratively settles, Curly orders this nemesis to accompany him on a mission. This leads to the mutual understanding that countless sitcoms show us result when two foes are trapped together. This segment also introduces the other scene stealer Norman the calf. 

Of course, things go from bad to worse until Mitch and his posse essentially must land the pilotless jet. It is equally inevitable that this experience makes men out of these Peter Pans and allows them to achieve inner peace. Suffice it to say that the laughs continue until the cows come home (and even longer). 

The depth of "Slickers" is what adequately distinguishes it from hundreds of other summer comedies to warrant Select treatment. As mentioned above, reaching middle-age often triggers a sense that having a beautiful wife and house (not to mention children and job) is not enough. We further are victims of unpleasant body changes and the senioritis in the form of coasting at a job that no longer excites us. We see how throwing in the element of the romance of the Old West  provides good fodder for a film. 

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