When the first "City Slickers" came to a close, it didn't exactly cry out for a sequel. Unlike, say, Indiana Jones, with his knack for stumbling into adventure, or James Bond, who seeks after it, Mitch Robbins, with his perpetual midlife crisis, doesn't seem quite the stuff of a big-screen franchise.
So, why "City Slickers II"? What a silly question. The first one was a blockbuster hit. What other reason does Hollywood need?
But where the first film was fast and funny, despite a serious, if whiny, yuppie angst subtext, the sequel seems to be merely about greed, and the pacing isn't nearly as sharp.
There are also a number of bits based on specific elements from the first film: Mitch (Billy Crystal, who also produced and co-wrote the screenplay), who was concerned about turning 39 the first time around, is now concerned about turning 40; there is a quick reference to the first film's VCR gag; there's a joke about Norman the baby calf, who is now fully grown; and there's even another stampede (horses, this time).
None of these ongoing elements proves as enduring — or as endearing — as Indy's bullwhip or 007's martini . . . shaken, not stirred.
As the film opens, Mitch has risen from sales rep to station manager at the Manhattan radio station and has hired Phil (Daniel Stern), which has proved to be a disaster (a subplot that is forgotten once it's introduced). To complicate matters further, Mitch's ne'er-do-well brother Glen (Jon Lovitz) has moved in for who-knows-how-long?
The plot kicks into gear when Mitch is about to leave for a Las Vegas convention and discovers an old, withered treasure map inside the cowboy hat left to him by Curly (Jack Palance), who died in the first film. Mitch also keeps seeing a vision of Curly everywhere he looks, which convinces him that he is destined to search for the treasure.
Rather than simply tell this to his wife (Patricia Wettig), Mitch takes Phil and Glen with him as he goes for the gold but pretends to be in Vegas (which makes for a couple of pointless cell phone gags).
The bulk of the film is made up of variations on the first movie's Western spoofery, along with a direct homage to "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." (All also shot beautifully in Moab.) And, of course, Curly's twin brother Duke (Palance again) shows up to reluctantly join them in their search.
There are some funny bits of business along the way, but if the first film feels padded and overly sentimental in places, this one suffers even more from the same prob-lem. And at two hours, it's way too long.
Still, Crystal has some good material, Lovitz can be funny (if he doesn't wear out his welcome first) and Palance seems more a real character than merely an icon this time around. Fans of the first film will probably enjoy this one — though my guess is they won't keep coming back, which will likely prevent this sequel from achieving the first picture's blockbuster status.
Favorite Line: It comes from Crystal, as he is trying to convince a redneck that he's a seismologist: "The continental plates are in a state of extreme seismic tension throughout this entire igneous, polygamous, Jurassic, hasidic region."
"City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold" is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual material, profanity and a few vulgar remarks.