Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I Should've Been a Cowboy

City Slickers
Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Jack Palance, Patricia Wettig, Helen Slater
Released: June 7, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Jack Palance (won)

Spoilers for a 25 year old movie! I don't like to take any chances. 

I'm more than halfway done with my 1991 reviews! I figured since this won an Oscar in an acting category, I should rewatch and review it. I have to be honest: as with Father of the Bride, this movie wasn't as good when I saw it the first time as a kid. I am a little surprised that Jack Palance won the Oscar because comedies hardly ever win Oscars for anything. Although, Hollywood loves to give veteran actors the Oscars, especially in the Supporting category. He was nominated for Oscars two times before this, both in the '50s. While I remembered that Curly, the character Palance plays, dies, I forgot that he died with at least an hour of the movie left and he really doesn't show up until half an hour into the movie so we're lucky if we have at least 30 minutes of the best character in the movie. And that's what Curly is: the best character in the movie. I do remember Jack Palance came back in City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold to play the twin brother of Curly. I haven't seen that movie in a very long time and I can't imagine I would like it if I wasn't too keen on the original! 

Well, hi there, lil Jake Gyllenhaal!
The movie is about a man named Mitch (Billy Crystal) who just turned 39 and is having a mid-life crisis. He works in radio advertising where he sells time to different companies so they can promote their products on the air. He realizes just how lame his job and life are when he's invited to speak about his job at his son's school and goes on a tirade about how these kids should be grateful for what they have because it's just going to get worse. He then proceeds to describe for them what their next seven decades of life will be like. With each passing decade, everything goes downhill. Playing his son is Jake Gyllenhaal in his film debut. He must have been nine or ten when he filmed this. Interesting his first movie would feature cowboys and horses when he would go on to be in Brokeback Mountain more than a decade later....although he does not partake in any of the roping and riding in this movie. 

At his birthday party (which he wants to cancel, but his wife (Patricia Wettig) insists he have it), Mitch's two friends announce that their gift to him is a two week cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado. His friends are having their own mid-life crises (is that the right plural form of crisis? IDK!) Phil (Daniel Stern) is married to a woman he clearly does not care for and the feeling is mutual...don't ask me why these two people are married if they can't stand each other! She is very controlling of him and has an icy personality. His father in law is a bully and expects him to help him at the grocery store he owns. Ed (Bruno Kirby) has never been able to settle down and get married and seems the older he gets, the younger his girlfriends get. He has recently married a beautiful model, so I'm not understanding how he's having a midlife crisis! Some people are never happy. During the party, a 20 year old who works at the grocery store with Phil arrives to tell him that she's "late" and this is how Phil's wife finds out he's having an affair. I have no idea how the 20 year old found out where Phil was that night and even if she did know, why would she announced that to him in a roomful of people, including his wife? I know it's for the benefit of the movie, but it does not make any sense. This is the best thing that could have happened for Phil because his wife divorces him and he's fired from the job he hates. At first, Mitch wasn't thrilled about the cattle drive and told the others he couldn't go because he promised he would go with his wife to Florida to visit her parents, but she tells him to go, that she doesn't want to happen to them what happened with Phil and his ex-wife. 

So the three guys head out to New Mexico where they meet the other people who have also signed up for this adventure: an African-American father and son who are dentists, two Jewish brothers who have their own ice cream line (think Ben and Jerry's), and an attractive woman whose traveling partner bailed on her at the last minute and she's having second thoughts about whether she should stay and everyone implores her to. Before leaving for Colorado they are given riding lessons and learn how to rope calfs. Mitch is the only one who can't seem to, ahem, learn the ropes, if you'll excuse my bad bun. The married couple who own the ranch are not riding with them, instead they tell everyone that they'll see them in Colorado...I guess they got a head start in their car? However, they
decide to leave all these "city slickers" with two unruly cowboys who like to get drunk and randomly shoot their guns at empty beer bottles. We first see how slimy they are when they're trying to "help" Bonnie, the sole attractive woman with her roping skills and pretty much implying that she won't be able to do it because she's a woman. Mitch goes over to try to help her, but doesn't have much luck, because, let's face it, Billy Crystal isn't exactly imposing. Instead, he gets showed up by Curly, who may be nearly forty years older than him, but he is a head taller and a lot more imposing for an old man! He throws a very long knife (Crocodile Dundee would be proud of it!) at one of the guys, nearly missing his groin and tells him they better behave. Needless to say, everyone is scared of Curly.

Curly doesn't have much time for Mitch, which I don't blame him, because on the first morning of their cattle drive to Colorado, he decides he's going to make coffee with an electric coffee mixer and ends up scaring all the cattle and they run away and trample over the camp. I would be pretty angry too! Curly wants Mitch to go with him to help him round up the cattle and Mitch and his friends are sure that Curly is going to kill him. There was a funny line where Phil says if Mitch doesn't come back, then he's going after Mitch's wife. Of course Curly does not kill anyone and over a few days he and Mitch bond with Curly telling Mitch he needs to find that "one thing" that will make him happy and he's the one who needs to figure out what that one thing is. 

In one scene, Mitch has to help Curly deliver a calf and Curly wants Mitch to reach "inside" and pull out the calf while he holds the mother down. I remember this scene because they actually show the calf coming out and it was pretty graphic when I was a kid watching this! After the calf gets cleaned up, he is very cute and Mitch names him Norman. However, the mother cow is dying and Curly shoots him, thus Mitch adopting the calf and feeding him. Not long after, Curly dies while sitting up in some rocks. Mitch thinks he's just "sleeping" while keeping an eye open to watch the cattle, but no, he is indeed dead. I don't know what the husband and wife team were thinking sending them out with an eighty year old trail supervisor and two drunk and misogynist cowboys? Because now with Curly out of the picture, the two unruly cowboys can go back to being jackasses and they get drunk one night and start shooting off their guns. After they take Norman with a gun (and this scene made me so nervous as a kid!), Mitch goes out to try to talk to them. However, it is Phil, who hates bullies because of his former father in law and ends up with one of the guns and threatens them. Nobody - humans or animals - were hurt in this little altercation. They finish the rest of the cattle drive and Mitch, Phil, and Ed all go home changed men. Phil even has a glimmer of a romantic start with Bonnie. Mitch brings Norman back with him after hearing the cattle they had all herded were going to be slaughtered and sold as steaks. He plans to put Norman in a petting zoo. 

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