Okay, so a couple of weeks ago, I made my kids sit down with the wife and me and watch City Slickers. I had DVRd it a few weeks prior and thought it would make for a good, relatively clean night of family entertainment.
Now, I had originally seen City Slickers pretty much when it had first come out back in the early 90s. In the early 90s, I was in my early 20s and I remembered thinking the movie was pretty funny. I didn’t remember the entire plot, but I remembered that it was a bunch of city guys going on a cattle drive to find themselves or something. I remember Jack Palance being funny, and I remember that he won like an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role (which must have meant that there weren’t many actors up for that award that year…).
So, the wife and I and the kids all settle in and we’re gonna have us a good couple of hours of family comedy. And then the movie starts and Billy Crystal’s character is all mid-life-crisis-ish because he is approaching 40 and he hasn’t really accomplished anything of importance with his career and he wants to figure out something that gives his life meaning…
***screeching breaking sound of tires on pavement***
Whoa there, family fun night! As a 44-year-old guy, I’m not finding the premise nearly as funny as I did over 20 years ago.
So Billy Crystal’s character is completely, cynically miserable and his wife has had enough. She is tired of dealing with his misery and she tells him to go with his friends on this cattle drive and find his “smile” again. He wants to know what they are going to do if he can’t find his smile, and she foreshadows that his ass is going to be on the street if he can’t find his smile.
There is absolutely nothing funny about this movie.
So the mid-life crisis crew go on the cattle drive and the hired hands are jerks and crusty old Jack Palance’s character starts out creepy but ends up being a good guy and then he dies and the jerky hired hands take off and the mid-lifers are left to bring in the cattle on their own. And they do. The city slickers drive the cattle through a storm to the destination and they find their manliness and whatnot and they are all happy. And Billy Crystal’s character sees his wife and he smiles and points at his smile.
“I found it,” he says.
And the wife says, “So, are you going to quit your job?”
And Billy Crystal’s character says, “Nope. I’m just going to do my job better!”
WHAT!!! There is nothing funny or touching or ANYTHING about this movie. How did I ever think this movie was funny? What in the name of anything made me think I would enjoy watching this stupid movie in my 40s? Billy Crystal goes on a cattle drive and discovers that driving cows has given his mid-life ass meaning and he doesn’t need a job to give his life meaning because he drove the cows and he just needs to quit looking for something better and do his current, meaningless job selling radio advertising better to be a better person or something. This may be the stupidest movie EVER!
And then it hit me… it’s only a movie. City Slickers is not real life. Billy Crystal didn’t really drive those cattle. Billy Crystal was a wildly popular comedian before he landed major roles in movies suck as When Harry Met Sally, Throw Mama from the Train, City Slickers and City Slickers II. Billy Crystal found even more success later in life as the voice of Mike Wazowski in Monster’s, Inc and Monster’s University. Billy Crystal is a beloved, famous millionaire. Billy Crystal does not and probably never has worked as a crappy ad salesperson.
And I have come to the conclusion that old comedies are not meant for current family movie nights…