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Film / City Slickers
aka: City Slickers II The Legend Of Curlys Gold

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Classic Western movie poster, just add Billy Crystal!
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City Slickers is a 1991 Western Comedy film, directed by Ron Underwood and starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Bruno Kirby, Helen Slater, and Jack Palance.

The film is about a group of men experiencing a collective midlife crisis. Mitch Robbins (Crystal) is an advertising manager at a radio station who's increasingly disillusioned with the lack of meaning he sees in his job and his life. Phil Berquist (Stern) is stuck managing his father-in-law's grocery store, while trapped in a sexless marriage with an overbearing wife. And Ed Furillo (Kirby) is a successful businessman and playboy, struggling with the idea of monogamous marriage and the pressure to have kids.

At Mitch's 39th birthday party, Phil and Ed present their joint birthday present: a two-week Southwestern cattle drive for all three men. At the insistence of his wife Barbara (Patricia Wettig), Mitch accepts the gift, traveling with his friends to New Mexico, where they meet the other participants of the cattle drive and learn the ropes of moving the herd, guided by the grizzled, tough-as-nails boss of the whole operation, Curly (Palance).

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Jack Palance's performance as Curly won him the 1991 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and AFI ranked the film as #86 on its "100 Laugh" list. Followed in 1994 by City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, which was not as well-received as the original.


These films contain examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In the second film, Glenn (played by Jon Lovitz) tried to "milk" Norman. This could be an allusion to his character in A League of Their Own, who chaffed at the characters played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty milking cows.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Mitch accidentally causing a stampede? Curly chuckles and shakes his head.
  • Adult Fear: Being 50 and feeling like you've wasted your entire life, which Phil has a breakdown over.
  • Angry Black Man: During their intro, the son dentist tries to do this trope, but the dad tells him to lay off.
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  • Animal Stampede: Mitch's coffee grinder starts a stampede of the cows.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The animated main titles begin after the bull gores Mitch from behind in Pamplona.
  • Ass Shove: Happens to Mitch in the first film during the run from the buffaloes, getting gored by one of the horns before the opening credits. After said credits, he's seen at a doctor getting fixed up.
  • Automaton Horses: Consciously averted, as the main characters' lack of riding experience is played for laughs.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Where Did My Heart Go?" by James Ingram.
  • Awful Wedded Life: All scenes and dialogue make it obvious that this is the case between Phil and Arlene.
  • Backup Twin: City Slickers II has this in the form of Duke, Curly's equally-scary twin brother. The reason given for his absence, and not even being mentioned, in the first movie is that he and Curly weren't on speaking terms, he was out on the sea, and Curly didn't exactly talk about his personal life to a guy he met yesterday all that much anyway.
  • Badass Boast: Curly's "I crap bigger than you." Yes.
  • Benevolent Boss: Lou, the manager at Mitch's radio station. When he learns about what Mitch is going through, he's polite enough to sympathize with him.
  • Big Little Brother: Mitch's brother Glen in the second film (Billy Crystal is 5'6 while Jon Lovitz is 5'9). Glen even lampshades this in his first scene.
  • The Casanova: Ed is a womanizer who fears monogamy, and he's dating a model.
  • Camp Cook: He gives a brief but memorable eulogy at Curly's funeral.
  • Cattle Drive: The whole premise of the first movie.
  • The Chew Toy: Phil is never safe from the world's abuse. Examples include being chased by bulls to the point that he is forced to jump onto a flagpole, accidentally sitting on a cactus and mistaking it for a snake bite, or being involved in a sexless marriage.
  • City Mouse: The entire cast lives in New York City.
  • City Slicker: The eponymous trio. It's also the title of the film.
  • Closest Thing We Got: The two dentists.
    "He's injured, and we have medical training."
    "Dad, we're dentists, what are we gonna do, give him a cleaning?!"
  • Cool Old Guy: Curly turns out to be this, once Mitch gets to know him.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mitch, being played by Billy Crystal, has a dry and witty personality.
    Mitch: Hi, Curly—kill anyone today?
  • Destination Defenestration: When Phil is forced to jump onto a Spanish flagpole to avoid the bulls in Pamplona, another spectator jumps through the nearby store's window.
  • Dies Wide Open/Died On His Horse: Curly. It takes several minutes for Mitch & Co. to realize he's dead.
  • Driven to Suicide: It is implied that Phil was contemplating killing himself for a few seconds before Mitch and Ed come to check on him.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Mitch and Barbara. "No...you make me happy—'here'."
  • Growing Up Sucks: Mitch's message to kindergarten students.
    Mitch: Value this time in your life, kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so fast. When you're a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Thirties - you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself: 'What happened to my twenties?' Forties - you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Fifties - you have a minor surgery. You'll call it a 'procedure', but it's a surgery. Sixties - you'll have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn't matter because you can't hear it anyway. Seventies - you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale. You start eating dinner at two o'clock in the afternoon, you have lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. You spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate soft yogurt and muttering: 'How come the kids don't call?' 'How come the kids don't call?' The eighties, you'll have a major stroke. You end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can't stand but who you call mama. Any questions?
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Curly's story about his greatest love.
  • Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis: The film about three friends who are each going through their own respective mid-life crisis. Mitch is bored with his job and frightened by how quickly the years seem to be flying by. Phil's Sexless Marriage prompts him to have an affair with a younger coworker, resulting in him losing his job and his wife leaving him. Ed is a successful businessman and womanizer who is frightened by the prospect of settling down and starting a family. The three friends go on a cattle drive vacation, during which they all begin to figure out their lives.
  • I Am Not My Father: Mitch suggests that Ed's drive to succeed comes from wanting to be better than the father who abandoned him and his mother and sister.
    • Conversely, his fears of commitment and fatherhood appear to be for the same reason—even after finally marrying, he's reluctant to have children out of fear of turning out like his father.
  • If You Die, I Call Your Stuff:
    "If anything happens to him...I'm going after Barbara."
  • The Legend of X: In the title of the sequel.
  • MacGuffin Escort Mission: The cattle drive.
  • May–December Romance:
    "Ed, have you noticed that the older you get, the younger your girlfriends get? Soon, you'll be dating sperm."
    • His eventual wife appears to be 10-20 years his junior.
  • Nervous Wreck: It doesn't take much for Phil to be sent into hysterics.
  • Never Mess with Granny:
    Duke: My Ma died last year, she was 95. Stabbed in a bar fight.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ira & Berry's Ice Cream = Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Discussed in II when the group is trying to deal with spending the night out in a freezing thunderstorm with no tent. The reaction to this suggestion by Mitch and Glen is about what you would expect, and eventually they come up with a better plan.
    Phil: In case we don't make it, and I die first...eat me.
    Mitch: Eat you??? I don't even like to talk to you on the phone!
  • Open Heart Dentistry: See Closest Thing We Got, above.
  • Perilous Old Fool: According to Duke, he and Curly's mom was one of these.
    Duke: Our mom died. She was 95. Stabbed in a bar fight.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Curly was the more honorable of the two, and also preferred the life of a cowboy. Duke was a conniving sort who loved the sea and joined the Navy. But they appear to have had a mutual respect and have equally threatening presences.
  • Posthumous Character: Curly in the second film.
  • Punny Name: In the first film, the couple who run the ranches and the cattle drive. Meet Clay Stone and his wife, Mill(ie) Stone.
  • Rancher: The ranch owner who needs the cattle drive done.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Phil wrestles for one of the trail hands' guns and uses it to scare them into sobering up. Even after the situation has been defused (Phil yells "BANG!" instead of shooting), he keeps his finger tight on the trigger and is clearly agitated.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Mitch's brother Glenn replaced Ed in the sequel.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Norman the cow. Mitch goes to great lengths to protect that little calf and ends up keeping him as a pet.
  • Right Behind Me: Occurs in both movies, both times executed by Mitch. (twice in II)
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Phil Berquist, as played by Daniel Stern, often screams in a high pitch.
  • Serious Business: Ira and Barry ask Mitch to challenge Barry to name a meal to follow up with the right type of ice cream. Mitch's first challenge is a half-assed one, which Barry takes as an insult.
  • Sexless Marriage: Phil and his wife. "That's right! Not having sex for twelve years will do that to a person!"
  • Shout-Out: To The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in II, a lot.
    • During a montage in the first film, Mitch sings the Rawhide Title Theme Tune with spoofy altered lyrics.:
      "Rollin' rollin' rollin'
      Keep those doggies rollin'
      Man my ass is swollen
      Rawhide!"
  • Sleeping with the Boss: A checkout girl from Phil's store breaks into a party he's attending to tell him she's pregnant, so this trope has been in play. Played both for drama, and laughs:
    Ed: ...that's pretty smug advice, coming from a man who mounted an eighteen-year-old checkout girl on the day-old bread rack.
    Phil: She's twenty, and shut up.
    Ed: Let me get you hot, Phil: "I need a price. Register Nine, I need a price..."
    Phil: Cut it out!
    Mitch: (warningly) Guys...
    Ed: What did you use for protection, paper or plastic?
  • Sleeps with Both Eyes Open: Subverted, where the main character thinks this is happening. Turns out, Curly's really dead.
  • Speed Sex: Mitch does this with his wife in the sequel when he notices a piece of paper tucked away in Curly's cowboy hat. While his wife goes into the bathroom after the sex, Mitch pulls it out and notices that it is a secret treasure map.
  • Squick: In-Universe. Phil tells the other guys he was watching a horse getting castrated. (Beat) Mitch says, "Well! I'm hungryhow about you?"
  • Staged Shooting: At the end of City Slickers 2, the target is so startled that even he doesn't realize he wasn't shot.
  • Suck Out the Poison: Subverted. It was a thorn. Please chill.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Phil, given his Sexless Marriage and Henpecked Husband status. However, Reality Ensues. While sympathetic, none of his friends condone his behavior, he and the girl have a pregnancy scare, and he's certain that he'll be financially wiped out in the divorce and lose custody of his children.
  • Taking the Bullet: Parodied in City Slickers II when Glen takes a bullet for Mitch, shares some tearful last words with his brother, and black out...then immediately revives upon discovering the bullet was a blank.
  • Title Drop: Clay Stone tells the cattle drive group that "You came here city slickers; you're gonna go home cowboys."
  • Toros y Flamenco: The opening depicts Pamplona's annual Running of the Bulls. Although Phil and Ed flee from the bulls (Phil by jumping on a Spanish flagpole and Ed by getting into the spectators), Mitch gets gored from behind.
  • Treasure Map: Subverted in City Slickers II since it was a fake map leading to fake treasure as part of an "adventure tour." Then Double Subverted, when it turns out there was gold hidden elsewhere in the desert..
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Interspecies example in the second movie, when Glen decides to help out around the house by milking the cow Mitch acquired in the first movie:
    Glen: There is something wrong with your cow. I reach under there and I'm pulling, tugging, tugging, pulling, nothing, not a drop.
    Mitch: The cow's name is Norman. You were pulling on his dick.
    Glen: I'm gonna go wash up.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ed wasn't seen or heard from in part 2.
  • You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Curly's burial:
    Cookie: Lord, we give you Curly. Try not to piss him off.

Alternative Title(s): City Slickers II The Legend Of Curlys Gold

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