City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994)
City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (1994)

Genre: Comedy and Western Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: June 10th, 1994 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Paul Weiland Actors: Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, Jon Lovitz, Jack Palance, Patricia Wettig, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Bill McKinney, Lindsay Crystal, Beth Grant, David Paymer, Josh Mostel

 


 

M

arc Shaiman’s rousing theme music and the exaggerated opening sequence cartoon welcome the return of iconic cinema characters, headlined by comedian Billy Crystal. The city-folk-meet-the-Wild-West juxtaposition that made “City Slickers” such a hilarious ordeal is revisited three years later in this sequel, which reunites most of the principal cast (as well as Norman the cow). Though it retains the playful attitude and frequent jests, the story – taking place one year after the events of the original – isn’t aggrandized as much as merely repeated, sans the heart and hilarity.

New Yorker Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) is plagued by nightmares of tough trail boss Curly (Jack Palance), who perished during his previous adventure moving cattle across the southwest. At his job as the station manager of WBLM radio, Mitch is distracted by his longtime friend Phil Berquist (Daniel Stern), who should have been fired awhile ago after going through a tough divorce from Arlene. Phil spends his time calling the station psychiatrist (who was previously doing traffic reports and might move to movie criticism), while the secretary bugs Mitch about the overdue sacking. Although it’s Mitch’s 40th birthday, and he’s been promised a simple, romantic celebration that evening (all alone with his wife Barbara, played again by Patricia Wettig), it’s interrupted by Phil joining them for dinner, Mitch’s brother Glen (Jon Lovitz) showing up unannounced, and his daughter inviting her boyfriend.

When night settles in, Mitch discovers a treasure map tucked away in Curly’s old cowboy hat. The following morning, after thwarting Glen’s session of wallowing in self-pity, he confers with Phil about going after the buried treasure – $1 million in gold, identified as the goods from a Western Pacific Railroad robbery by outlaw Lincoln Washburn back in the 1800s. Mitch, Phil, and the unavoidably invited Glen, head out West, using a business convention in Las Vegas as a starting point for tracking down the loot. But merely having the map doesn’t mean that acquiring the precious metal will be an easy task.

Lighting the map on fire, telling the wrong people about the quest to dig for gold, failing to bring a compass, fending off rattlesnake bites, quarreling over the split, potentially freezing to death, and lying to wives are all scenarios that have lost most of the charm from the previous film. Flat dialogue that can’t muster laughs and bland slapstick that creates no urgency, predicaments, or memorable stunts, are largely to blame. Even the obligatory montage doesn’t contain any funny segments.

Lovitz is a poor substitute for Bruno Kirby, whose missing role removes the midlife crisis enthusiasm for perilous misadventures, especially since Lovitz brings only comic relief to a trio of comedians already more than capable of playing it goofy. Here, the motivation isn’t excitement or bolstering self-esteem as much as it is just greed and dwelling on regrets. And the all too convenient gimmick to bring back Jack Palance’s Oscar-winning character, now as twin brother Duke, provides only a modicum of seriousness (since he also cracks jokes continuously). The film is in desperate need of severity to balance out the attempts at comedy. If the unsuccessful, unconvincing gaiety surrounding everything from armed aggressors to a horse stampede to a mine cart mishap (a la “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) wasn’t bad enough, the conclusion is something of a reminiscence on the entertaining qualities of the predecessor – and perhaps a hopeful setup for a third film that never came to fruition.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10