What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the main characters get involved in life-threatening situations, such as being gored by a bull and almost dying in a rushing river. Heavy drinking leads to the death of two horses and the maiming of a minor character, as well as a fistfight and threats to kill a calf. Main characters make sexual jokes aimed at women, and one man cheats on his wife. That said, as midlife-crisis comedies go, this one is kinder and gentler than many that have followed it.
What's the story?
On his 39th birthday, Mitch (Billy Crystal) wakes up bored with his job, listless with his family, and obsessed with the pointlessness of his life. Luckily and comically, Mitch has two childhood best friends who drag him to all the clichéd male bonding rituals: sky diving, running with the bulls in Pamplona, etc. And as a special birthday treat, they surprise Mitch with a childhood fantasy come true. They're going to be cowboys for a week and drive cattle from New Mexico to Colorado. At the dude ranch, Mitch and friends Ed (Bruno Kirby) and Phil (Daniel Stern) meet crusty old cowboy Curly (Jack Palance); learn to ride horses, much to their nether regions' distress; and learn some cowboy wisdom. But when Curly's gone and the other professional cowboys vamoose, can Mitchy the Kidd and his gang bring the herd home safely? And what will happen when they return home?
Is it any good?
This is a true feel-good movie. Modern midlife-crisis comedies are often dark and lecherous; who could forget Lester's second adolescence and lascivious fantasy about his daughter's teenage friend in American Beauty? Though a good movie, it wasn't family-friendly. So it's heartening to be reminded of CITY SLICKERS, a movie about a midlife crisis that neither blames the family for Dad's unhappiness nor resorts to exploiting teenage girls so he can reclaim his mojo. City Slickers is the rare movie that rings true for adults but doesn't alienate kids. And veteran actor Jack Palance won an Oscar for his arresting performance as Curly.
Instead of fleeing from their fears by acquiring younger women (well, with the exception of Phil) or sports cars, the guys use the trip to share their deepest feelings -- but they're on horses in the wild, so it's okay. Robert Bly would be proud. When they return home to their mates, they aren't teenagers, but rather grown men who appreciate what they have.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why Mitch is dissatisfied in his life. Does that happen to any of the adults in your household? How does it affect the children? Does Mitch blame his family for his unhappiness? What roles do his friends play in helping Mitch become happy again? How does he resolve his problems? It might be a good time to talk to kids about how adults handle the stresses in their lives (and remind them that it's not their fault when parents are unhappy). That could lead to a larger discussion of how everyone in the family handles stress and unhappiness.