MAD: City Slickers

(1991 MGM/Watched on DVD)

There is something about cartoon intros that is quintessentially based either in the 1960s for TV, or a brief window in movies of the late 80s and 90s due to the generational throwback effect. They make a bold statement that what you’re about to watch is in essence a cartoon. Their remit is to make you laugh with wacky humour, set the tone, maybe give you a pitted foreshadowing of the story you’re about to watch, but almost always to lay down a sense of stylised, heightened reality.  Some of the following movies I don’t like, some of them I do. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Weekend at Bernie’s 2, Drop Dead Fred, Grease, Elf, Condorman, Four Rooms, and of course City Slickers, a film I had not seen until today.

In the gamut of Billy-Crystal-is-cheesed-off movies, this ranks below Forget Paris, which has ironically been completely forgotten and is a rare gem as a result. Forget Paris ranks below When Harry Met Sally, which I suppose ranks below Monsters Inc. In this case Crystal has hit a midlife slump. His son (a tiny Jake Gyllenhal, looking like he was hit by a de-ageing ray) is slightly embarrassed by him, his wife loves him and is supportive, he is unsatisfied with his job and generally adrift. In other words he is entirely average and quite lucky. His well-meaning spouse packs him off on a two week cattle drive, hoping it will help him find his spark out west. He brings along Daniel Stern, who just knocked up Lisa Simpson (… voice actress Yeardley Smith) and wrecked his marriage, and Bruno Kirby who is now dead. On the ranch he meets a bunch of city folk, just like him, and so the scene is set.

It’s OK.

They learn a little about being responsible men with the help of some obliging cows and a snarling Jack Palance (who famously did those one-armed push-ups onstage when he accepted his best supporting actor Oscar). Along the way they also ease back on their really quite creepy attitude to women. I didn’t laugh a single time during what Bravo ranks as its 73rd funniest movie. In the grand scheme of things it’s probably better than My Giant.

Author: Alex Shaw

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