Directed by Ron Underwood in 1991, City Slickers tells the story of three longtime friends on the cusp of turning forty: Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern), Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) and Ed Furillo (Bruno Kirby). To get away from it all and celebrate Mitch's birthday they leave their wives and families behind for a little while and decide to plan their own vacation. It's decided that they'll go on a cattle drive across the American Southwest. They arrive at the beginning of their journey and meet the man they'll be answering to for the next fourteen days, a surly old cowpoke named Curly (Jack Palance). The hope is that they'll return with a new vigor for life, having found meaning in what they've done, and be better prepared for the days that lie ahead.
Of course, it doesn't quite work out that way. Curly turns out to be tough as nails, never willing to take it easy on these three men from the city but instead insisting that they do things his way or no way at all. The guys aren't the only ones on this trip either, they're joined by father and son dentist team Ben (Bill Henderson) and Steve Jessup (Phil Lewis), ice cream baron business running brothers Ira (David Paymer) and Barry Shalowitz (Josh Mostel) and a single woman named Bonnie Rayburn (Patricia Wettig) hoping to come to terms with her live since her husband split on her. Soon enough the guys are squabbling with ranch hands T.R. (Dean Hallo) and Jeff (Kyle Secor), helping to deliver calves and trying ever harder to earn Curly's respect. But when Curly drops dead before the trip is even close to over, things get complicated.
At its core, City Slickers is a pretty basic fish-out-of-water story but it does aim a bit higher than that, bringing in elements of mid-life crises, dealing with the onset of middle age, coming to terms with familial responsibility and wanting to get away from the day to day dregs of suburban life by trying something different. This makes some of what drives the guys to do what they do a little more understandably and a little more relatable and the movie is better for that. The plot manages to throw a few unexpected twists into the mix and while the focus is almost entirely on the comedic aspect of the characters and their increasingly wonky situations, a little heartfelt drama is thrown in here and there in very tiny doses to tug at your heartstrings just a tiny little bit.
Most of the time it works quite well. The fact that all of this is performed by a really strong cast certainly helps out a lot but the writing is witty and clever. Stern, Crystal and Kirby have good chemistry though, the kind that makes them fun to watch here. Each one of them brings some unique personality to their respective character and is likeable enough in their own way. Of course, as anyone who has seen the film before will tell you, Jack Palance is the real star here. As Curly he's fantastic, using the gruff voice and naturally intimidating screen presence to nice effect, even taking home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the picture.
The movie does occasionally feel a little dated and at times is clearly the product of the era in which is was made. It also has a few pacing problems in the middle stretch and comes towards a somewhat predictable conclusion. That said, the large majority of the film remains quite funny and genuinely entertaining. Overall, it's aged better than you might expect and it turned out to be a fun film to revisit after not having seen it in over a decade.
City Slickers was given a new 4k scan for this release, which frames the film in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. There's nice depth and detail here, plenty of texture as well, and color reproduction looks very strong. We get nice black levels and a very clean presentation that shows no noticeable print damage but that retains a natural amount of film grain.
English tracks are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo options with removable subtitles available in English only. Both tracks are clean, clear and properly balanced. The 5.1 mix spreads the score and the effects around rather well while the 2.0 track obviously keeps everything up front. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion here, the audio quality is pretty solid.
The extra features appear to be ported over from the previous DVD release (and then later the 2011 Blu-ray) starting with an amusing audio commentary from director Ron Underwood and actors Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern. There's a good sense of humor to this talk that covers casting the film, what it was like on set, how everyone got along, the script, the characters and more.
From there we get a few featurettes, starting with Back In The Saddle: City Slickers Revisited, a twenty-nine-minute segment made up of interviews with most of the cast and crew members who look back on the making of the film and share some stories from the time they spent working together. In Bringing In The Script: Writing City Slickers we spent twenty-minutes with Billy Crystal and the screenwriting team to learn about what went into getting the story just right for the film. In the six-minute A Star Is Born: An Ode To Norman the cast and crew reminisce about their bovine co-star for a few minutes./p>
Three-minutes of deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection round out the extras and Shout! Factory provides a reversible cover art option for this release as well as a slipcover for the first pressing.
City Slickers holds up well, it's an amusing comedy performed by a solid cast. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray brings nothing new to the table in terms of extra features, everything that's here in that department came from the older DVD release, but it does look and sound quite nice. Maybe not an essential upgrade if you already have the 2011 Blu-ray but if you don't, it's pretty fun stuff and comes recommended.