City Slickers (1991)

Film and Plot Synopsis

“City Slickers,” directed by Ron Underwood and released in 1991, is a heartwarming comedy that follows the mid-life crisis of three friends as they embark on a cattle-driving adventure in the American West. The film explores themes of friendship, self-discovery, and the pursuit of happiness against the backdrop of the rugged and beautiful landscapes of the Southwest.

‘City Slickers’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
City Slickers (1991)The plot revolves around Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal), a discontented urban dweller who is struggling to find meaning and fulfillment in his life. Mitch, along with his best friends Ed (Bruno Kirby) and Phil (Daniel Stern), are each facing their own personal challenges as they approach middle age. Mitch is generally unhappy with life. Phil has been fired from his job by his father in law after he gets an subordinate pregnant, and Ed generally does not want to settle down, causing him to have a series of unrewarding relationships with women. In an effort to shake things up and recapture their sense of adventure, the trio decides to participate in a two-week cattle drive vacation at a ranch in New Mexico. Led by the grizzled and no-nonsense cowboy Curly Washburn (Jack Palance), Mitch, Ed, and Phil set out on a journey that will test their physical endurance, mental fortitude, and emotional resilience.

As they traverse the rugged terrain of the American West, Mitch and his friends encounter a series of trials and tribulations, from herding cattle across treacherous rivers to weathering thunderstorms and stampedes. Along the way, they form bonds with their fellow cowhands, including the wise-cracking cook Cookie (Tracey Walter), the beautiful blond Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater), ice cream moguls Barry and Ira Shalowitz (Josh Mostel and David Paymer), and the enigmatic cowpoke, Clay Stone (Noble Willingham).

Amidst the challenges of the trail, Mitch begins to confront his own insecurities and fears, grappling with his career frustrations, marital woes, and existential doubts. With Curly’s guidance and wisdom, Mitch learns valuable life lessons about the importance of embracing one’s true self, seizing the moment, and finding joy in the simple pleasures of life.

The film’s emotional core revolves around Mitch’s relationship with Curly, a gruff yet philosophical cowboy who serves as a mentor and father figure to Mitch. Through their conversations around the campfire and moments of quiet reflection, Mitch gains insight into the true meaning of masculinity, courage, and integrity.

I crap bigger than you! Curly Washburn (Jack Palance)

One of the film’s most memorable scenes occurs when Curly imparts his “secret of life” to Mitch, emphasizing the importance of finding that one thing that gives life purpose and meaning which is unique for every person. For Curly, it’s the simple act of living in the moment and savoring the experience of being alive. Unfortunately, Curly passes away during the cattle drive, leaving Mitch and the other guests to take charge of the drive.

As the cattle drive reaches its climax, Mitch and his friends confront their fears and insecurities head-on, finding strength and resilience in each other’s company. In a poignant and cathartic moment, Mitch takes the reins of leadership from Curly, embodying the lessons he has learned and guiding the cattle drive. As most of the other guests abandon the cattle drive, Mitch, Ed, and Phil push on, determined to do the unthinkable.

In a climatic sequence during a rainstorm, the trio push the herd to cross a river. An orphaned calf named Norman that Mitch helped birth begins to get washed down the river. Mitch discovers what his one thing is and dives in to save Norman. Ed and Phil team up and save Mitch and Norman. The next day, Mitch, Ed, and Phil bring the herd to its destination. Through their journey across the untamed wilderness of the American West, Mitch, Ed, and Phil discover that true happiness lies not in material possessions or external achievements, but in the bonds we share with those we love and the experiences that shape us into who we are meant to be.

A few days later, the men return to New York City. Mitch, a happier man who has rediscovered his smile, reunites with his wife Barbara (Patricia Wettig) and their two children. Mitch surprises the family by introducing them to Norman, their new pet. Phil, having learned his employee is not pregnant after all, begins a relationship with Bonnie. Ed intends to start a family with his wife Kim (Walker Brandt). Mitch is ready to restart his life with a new vision.

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Our Rating

Columbia Pictures released City Slickers on June 7, 1991. Ron Underwood directed the film starring Billy Crystal, Jack Palance, and Daniel Stern.

User Rating: 3.38 ( 3 votes)
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