Blu-ray Review: City Slickers (Collector's Edition)

By , Contributor
New from Shout Factory's imprint Shout Select comes City Slickers, a collector's edition Blu-ray that presents a brand new 4K HD scan of the smash hit comedy. For viewers of a certain age (i.e. those who were barely adults in 1991), it may be a shock to contemplate that City Slickers is now 27 years old. Thanks to Shout's new presentation, it looks as close as it probably can to being a new movie. The new transfer is that good—sharp and bold, without sacrificing the natural grain structure distinctive of films of its era.

And thankfully the movie itself holds up beautifully nearly three decades after its release. For those who need a refresher, Slickers finds three friends nearing middle age, each caught up in their own burgeoning mid-life crisis. Mitch (Billy Crystal) has a steady job and a great family, yet feels unfulfilled. Phil (Daniel Stern) works at his father-in-law's drug store, where an affair with a young cashier has led to a breakdown of his marriage. Ed (Bruno Kirby) has refused to grow up, still bedding young women and avoiding the responsibilities of settling down.

What's great about Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell's screenplay is that it's actually about something. When the trio of friends leave New York City for a two-week vacation in the Southwest, learning how to rope cattle and drive a cow herd, Slickers could've relied solely on fish-out-of-water gags and still be funny. But Ganz, Mandell, and director Ron Underwood are after something deeper. I personally hadn't seen City Slickers since its initial VHS release. What struck me, while revisiting via Shout's new Blu-ray, is just how heavy this movie is for a supposedly lightweight, family-friendly comedy.

Each of the three friends is given his own story arc, with possibly the film's highlight being the thoughtful discussion in which they each reflect on the best and worst days of their lives. These men—each of them overgrown children in one or more ways when the film begins—are seeking something more than a two-week 'cowboy camp' excursion. They don't know it from the word go, but their journey takes them places (both physical and emotional) they couldn't have imagined.

Presiding over it all is Curly (Jack Palance), a gritty, old-school cowboy straight out of an old Western movie. Palance won an Oscar for his work here, and it's remarkable to note just how limited his screen time is—but how indelible an impression he leaves, especially as he succinctly conveys a hard life's worth of wisdom to Mitch. (Palance's may not have delivered that year's rangiest supporting performance, but the Oscar win did lead to possibly the most memorable acceptance speech of all time—YouTube it if you don't remember.)

So many mainstream comedies that seemed so funny to audiences of their day have aged poorly. Be it certain screwball comedies of 1930s Hollywood or some of the '90s- and 2000s-era gross-out junk, video store shelves (or now, Netflix searches) are well-stocked with big hit films that just miss the mark when removed from the context of their era. Not so, it turns out, in the case of City Slickers. Thought the running of the bulls opening in Pamplona is a bit forced (honestly, it was in '91 too), the majority of City Slickers is a delight—funny and touching. This one should strike not only a nostalgic chord with viewers returning after many year, it will likely win over a new generation of fans.

In addition to the new transfer and cover art, Shout Select's City Slickers Blu-ray ports over a the special features that appeared on a previous edition: director and cast commentary, four making-of featurettes, and a couple brief deleted scenes. Order directly from Shout Factory and receive a free 18x24 rolled poster featuring brand new artwork (while supplies last).

City Slickers BD.jpg

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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