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‘City Slickers’

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 07, 1991


Ron Underwood
Billy Crystal;
Bruno Kirby;
Daniel Stern;
Patricia Wettig;
Helen Slater;
Jack Palance;
Tracey Walter;
Josh Mostel
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent
Supporting Actor

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The best parts in "City Slickers" have to do with being male, married and burned out. On a brief vacation from his domineering wife, Daniel Stern stares at a beautiful woman with vacant longing.

"When I was alive," he informs fellow husbands Billy Crystal and Bruno Kirby, "I would have found her attractive."

In this Three-Men-and-a-Midlife-Crisis comedy, Stern is a mega-henpecked grocer. Kirby is a frustrated Marlboro Man. Crystal, an almost-40 radio-ad salesman, is depressed at just about everything. Every year, the friends take macho, wifeless vacations to re-oil their fifth-wheel manliness. This year's rugged respite involves joining a real cattle drive in the Southwest, tourguided by yuppie-hating, square-jawed Jack Palance.

"Did you see how leathery he was?" says Crystal. "He's like a saddlebag with eyes."

The men are about to undergo a PG-13 "Deliverance," buffed over with user-friendly comedy. The movie's also a video-age hommage to the John Wayne-Montgomery Clift classic, "Red River." With Crystal playing spunky Clift to Palance's ornery Wayne, the neophytes rough it through bad food, menacing cowhands and stampeding cattle. Modern life, of course, constantly shows its anachronistic head.

"Hey, moonwalk!" Crystal yells, when his horse starts walking backwards.

"You are a sporting goods salesman," Stern reminds Kirby, when the macho wannabe prepares to lead the cattle across a river.

"Slickers" is also a white male's "Wizard of Oz." Stern will get his courage back and defeat the wicked witch. Crystal's heart will be restored and Kirby will get to roar for a while. But the film's strewn with enough amusing lines and situations to make the trail diverting.

While Crystal (who's also the executive producer) supplies most of the movie's comic strength, he's behind its most sentimental dippiness as well. Resolving his existential funk involves bringing a calf into this world. He calls it Norman. Not only is the calf a clumsy symbol of his sitcom-deep rebirth, it's a cinch that Crystal's family is going to be buying a lot of hay.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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