"City Slickers - Collector's Edition" DVD Review
June 19, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Right at the start, City Slickers starts with running bulls. No joke. The film literally starts out with our comedic trio running with the bulls in Spain, where Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) promptly gets hurt. From this very first scene, City Slickers set the stage for a remarkably original and funny film that moviegoers continue to reference and quote to this day. While it was conceived to be a simple comedy at the time, City Slickers would soon prove to be a very moving and emotionally true piece about men who experience a mid-life crisis and want to reconnect with…well, something. In the case of City Slickers, it’s brought about a whole new side of Americans that have since taken the movies setting and gone out for themselves to try their hand at becoming a cowboy.
When Mitch (Crystal) reaches a mid-life crisis, he and his friends Ed (Bruno Kirby) and Phil (Daniel Stern) quickly join him and the three quickly realize that the best thing for them to do is to go on a two-week vacation in the Wild West and drive cattle from New Mexico to Colorado. What the trio didn't realize was that they'd meet the intimidating Curly Washburn (Jack Palance) who teaches them more than one or two things about driving cattle and living in the west.
It’d been a long while since I’d seen City Slickers, so watching it again made for almost an entirely new experience. I found it odd that the critical reception of the film was high (holding at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes), the overall viewer experience seems a tad low (the film averages out at 6.6 on IMDb). I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect now that I’d be seeing the film through older eyes than my younger self who had watched it on various TV airings, but regardless I dug in. I quickly found out that the voters on IMDb have no idea what they’re talking about.
The film was just as funny as it was when I was younger, perhaps more so now that many of the jokes aren’t flying over my head, but regardless I was surprised by how funny this film was to this day. It’s approaching twenty years in age, yet it’s still a remarkably witty and modern film, although that may be because the majority of it takes place where technology still doesn’t exist to this day. Still, the setting, characters and issues that the film discusses are as relevant today s they were back in 1991.
One surprising element I found with this film was how close in feeling it was with the 80s film Stand By Me. Obviously City Slickers was more comedic, but the same general feeling of camaraderie is present, as is the sentiment that they’re all brothers. It’s a deeper meaning into the film that might not be seen by all and I may just be imagining that since I recently watched Stand By Me, but the parallels can be drawn.
The standout of the film is obviously Billy Crystal, but Jack Palance is equally as remarkable in his role as Curly. Not only did he impress audiences, but he impressed the Academy as well, as his role as Curly won him an Oscar. Some may argue the Oscar was more simply for his entire body of work than that specific role, but I think Curly brought more to the film than anyone else in the cast. His experience and the things he taught Crystal’s character in particular are the foundation of the film and anyone else in Palance’s role simply wouldn’t have the same impact.
Overall while the clothing and some of the city style scenery may feel dated, the acting and storyline are just as strong as they were back in 1991. It’s a really great film that is considered a modern classic in my book, but that may just because my parents loved it so much they actually bought the VHS of it, something they did for very few films, so in that respect the film became a bit of a “classic” around my house. In any case, if you haven’t seen the film yet it comes Recommended—I don’t know if I can say the same for the sequel…we’ll have to wait for the special edition of that to decide that one.
After a near bare bones DVD release previously, City Slickers finally gets the Collector’s Edition release it deserves. MGM has packaged the DVD inside of a standard DVD amaray case with a glossy slipcover over top. Inside is the disc by its lonesome, with menus for the disc a variety of animated cowboy and bulls, similar to the ones in the opening credits. It’s on an all-black menu, so it gave me shades of whatever season of The Simpsons sported a similar look…it’s a mixture of what looks like a lot of work and not a whole lot, merely because of that stark black background. Still, it makes for easy navigation.
Video is a strong anamorphic widescreen transfer that, while laden with grain, still looks fairly decent for its age. It’s not something you need in a super high definition transfer, as it’s simply an easy film to kick back and watch and nothing you’re going to show off your home theater setup with. The accompanying 5. 1 track is also quite impressive, but, again, it won’t shake the neighbor’s windows or anything like that.
For the extras we actually get a healthy dose of newly recorded material, the first of which is a newly recorded commentary with director Ron Underwood and actors Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern. As expected it’s quite the joke filled track and the three are very appreciative of not only the audience that first saw the film but also the fans that have stuck with it. There’s plenty of joking and technical facts spread through it as well and it’s quite the treat to hear from the director and actors again after all this time.
Moving on we have two quick deleted scenes, the first of which isn’t really included completely, as Ron Underwood introduces it and pieces of it play throughout his decision to cut it. The second scene has writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel commenting about the removed scene, which is shown in its entirety.
Up next are the documentaries, all of which are newly recorded and in anamorphic widescreen (as everything is on this set). The first is “Back in the Saddle: City Slickers Revisited” (28:59), a retrospective of the film with cast and crew commenting. I’m really happy that they not only got Daniel Stern back but also star Billy Crystal as well, as it makes for a much more rounded discussion when everyone is involved rather than half of the cast. “Bringing in the Script: Writing City Slickers” (20:59) talks specifically about, what else, but the writing of the film. Writers Ganz and Mandel talk the most here, although Crystal gets quite a few jokes and info bits in as well.
“A Star Is Born: An Ode to Norman” (6:15) talks about the famous calf in the film that made such an impact on the viewers (plus the special effects that brought his sequence to life…freezing goo slop and all). Finally “The Real City Slickers” (8:56) talks about the actual invidiously who do what our cast in the film experienced…many of whom were inspired by City Slickers itself.
Overall this is one double dip that is worth going for. The new extras are absolutely worth the price (with an MSRP of $14.98, you’re bound to find it for near $10) and the upgraded video and audio transfer also make for a nice bonus. A superb set all around and one that comes Highly Recommended.
City Slickers - Special Edition is now available on DVD.