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City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold

June 10, 1994

CITY SLICKERS II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD is the sequel to the Billy Crystal comedy adventure hit I reviewed in my summer of ’91 series. You may remember that Jack Palance won an Oscar for playing the surly trail boss Curly, who teaches Mitch (Billy Crystal, RUNNING SCARED) how to feel like less of a twerp, helps him deliver a baby calf, dies, and is bizarrely buried out in the middle of the desert. The sequel opens with Mitch riding out to visit Curly’s grave, only to have him reach and rise out of it, in a parody of the end of CARRIE. (A nightmare, of course.)

I thought it would be funny if they got Palance back just to do that scene, but this is actually a sequel that follows in the tradition of A BETTER TOMORROW 2, where the stand out character was killed in the first movie so they brought the actor back as his twin brother. Mitch keeps seeing Curly outside his window and shit, his friends think he’s losing it, but in fact Curly’s twin brother Duke is following him around trying to find a treasure map hidden in his brother’s hat, which Mitch has.

Part 1 co-star Bruno Kirby didn’t want to return because he was highly allergic to horses. But so was new director Paul Weiland (LEONARD PART 6, Mr. Bean), who also wished they had told him that “You’re not really gonna be the director; you’re there to hold Billy’s hand and really he’s gonna direct it.” This time Crystal has a writing credit alongside original screenwriters Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN). Cinematographer Dean Semler didn’t return, but they managed to get Adrian Biddle (ALIENS, WILLOW, THELMA & LOUISE), so once again it’s surprisingly well shot for a comedy like this, taking advantage of all the natural vistas and herds of cattle and shit. I gotta at least respect that – many comedies of the era wouldn’t bother.

The story starts a year after part 1, September 8th, 1992, Mitch’s 40th birthday. His wife Barbara (Patricia Wettig, ME AND VERONICA) gets him hyped up in the morning for an all night sex romp that will be endangered by obstacles including the unexpected arrival of Mitch’s shitty younger brother Glen (Jon Lovitz, MOM AND DAD SAVE THE WORLD), the “vice president of lazy,” and then Mitch’s discovery of the map while putting on the cowboy hat for sex purposes. His best friend Phil (Daniel Stern, BLUE THUNDER) now works with him at the radio station, but hasn’t gotten over his divorce, so after they research the map and determine that it leads to bank robbery loot hidden by Curly’s dad, I guess the idea is that going on an adventure will cure his depression.

Part 1 character Clay Stone (Noble Willingham, THE LAST BOY SCOUT) sells them supplies, and later he and his partner Bud (Pruitt Taylor Vince, WILD AT HEART) figure out what they’re up to and try to ambush them, but Curly’s twin brother Duke shows up out of nowhere like Batman to rescue them, and they decide to work together to find the treasure. So they get their “we’re a bunch of pansies and you’re a salt of the earth man’s man who practices the cowboy way so we’re intimidated” tensions that the CITY SLICKERS saga and the whole Slickerverse are known for.

There’s a cliff, a rattlesnake, some cryptic clues, a stampede, a mine full of cobwebs with a TEMPLE OF DOOM inspired mine cart stunt, and if this were still the ‘80s there definitely would’ve been a GOONIES slide. Twists happen, plots are resolved, hearts are mildly broken then similarly warmed, friendships are reaffirmed.

Although not everyone from the original cast returned, they do find an excuse for a couple of the other dorks from the cattle drive to show up at the end. It was this generation’s AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Also he still somehow has Norman, the cow he delivered, living with him in New York City, and takes him jogging. Instead of bringing back Jake Gyllenhaal as the son they just have a comment about him hiding from Uncle Glen.

I’m really not a Billy Crystal guy, to me this is a very middlebrow, square type of humor that’s mildly amusing at best, no matter how delightful the score by Marc Shaiman (HOCUS POCUS) keeps insisting it is. For my tastes, Lovitz is the funniest part and the one scene that made me genuinely laugh is when Barbara and Mitch are complaining about Glen acting out scenes from THE GODFATHER PART II all the time. Phil thinks it’s amusing and gets him to do it, and during another scene in the other room we can occasionally hear that he’s in there still doing the scene. Lovitz of course delivers it with great commitment. And it’s kind of funny to realize that BARBIE’s joke about dudes being obsessed with THE GODFATHER is a timeless theme.

The first CITY SLICKERS is a mid-life crisis movie, with the fellas feeling unmanly and unfulfilled, Barbara worrying Mitch is gonna cheat on her if he doesn’t “find his smile,” and the one friend who’s missing here having a breakdown over unresolved issues from his childhood. I kinda think these guys are dipshits and some of what they romanticize is corny in a bad way, but at least the movie was about something. Part II doesn’t convincingly find a new theme, it just kinda half-assedly implies “uh, yeah, still unfulfilled or whatever, gotta put on hats again,” and that feels very empty. Who gives a shit if these guys find the gold? They don’t even really need it for anything.

I’m not alone in feeling that way. Critics at the time were probly harder on it than I am, being more attached to the first one. It probly didn’t lose money in the end but it was no smash, so they were never able to make CITY SLICKERS III: NORMAN’S ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME. As far as summer of ’94 sequels so far go I’d say it’s definitely better than 3 NINJAS KICK BACK, arguably better than BEVERLY HILLS COP III, definitely not as good as PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD.

I made this screengrab for the ladies

Summer of ’94 connections: Beth Grant plays one of Mitch’s co-workers, and she was also one of the passengers in SPEED, released the same day. Mitch tries to be sexy by wearing only a cowboy hat during sex, which Woody Harrelson does more successfully in THE COWBOY WAY.

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16 Responses to “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”

  1. In BEERFEST a character drowns in a var of beer and his twin brother shows up to take his place and tells everybody to just call him by his brother’s name in tribute.

  2. Saw this when it first came to video and only that one time. I think it’s one of my earliest “this isn’t as good/funny as the first one” moments.

  3. Pac 2: The Legend of Blah Blah Blah...

    June 13th, 2024 at 12:54 am

    It’s weird to me how about 10 years after this came out THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD suddenly became the ELECTRIC BOOGALOO of 90s subtitles. It’s kind of odd to me, I don’t know if I really get it. I guess Crystal and his humour is a specific kind of boomer thing that some Gen X/Millennial comics enjoy riffing on in their own specific way, although even THE SIMPSONS got in on the act and their writers are about the same age as Crystal so [shrug].

    Personally I kindaaaaaaaaa like MR SATURDAY NIGHT, Crystal’s vanity project that tanked and at least partially inspired him to search for that gold, it’s a window into a now long gone and even then rapidly fading (and to those of us outside of the US, inaccessible) comedy world, but it’s definitely unfortunate that Crystal spends the majority of the movie in pretty awful old man make-up.

    I saw this a few years before I saw the original. The main thing I remember is Lovitz talking about being a “Pet Detective”, which the film treats as this co-co crazy thing, oy have you ever heard the likes, this guy am I right? I assumed this meant the film was slightly older than ACE VENTURA and this was a weird coincidence, but it turns out ACE VENTURA is the slightly older one so I don’t really know what was going on there.

  4. Franchise Fred actually approves this one. I thought they did a good job with two major hurdles: bringing back Palabce and not having Kirby.

    I don’t think they’re still in midlife crisis. Phil is still a wreck but divorce takes longer than a year to heal (unfortunately I can now confirm this but I already sensed it in ‘94).

    I think Mitch is dealing with grief and accepting Duke is not Curly. And he has to reconcile his relationship with his brother.

    I get not liking it as much but didn’t get the extent of bashing it. Not as natural as the first but also good.

  5. I don’t remember much about it, but actually liked when (SPOILER, I guess) a bunch of characters from the first movie showed up at the end.

  6. “Wild Hogs” were sort of a cousin to “City Slickers”, but much more hilarious, better written, better acted, better structured… well, just better. Than some stain stopped the sequel from being made, because another film with some of the actors who were the “Wild Hogs” did not make money, so, by Hollywood’s diseased logic, that was the reason to block an unrelated film.

  7. I saw this at the drive in across from my Nana’s house as a kid that always did the absolutely wildest double features. It was like a family friendly movie first and then a very not family friendly movie after with the assumption the kids had fallen asleep? But like we never had so I saw this followed up by Tank Girl and then then a week later saw The Lion King followed up by Outbreak.

    I’d never seen the first one (still never had) but I remember this was enjoyable enough for my like 7 yearold hopped up on sugar arse. Tank Girl stuck a lot more then it though and is the movie from that double feature I’ve revisited. (And still love, best fuckin movie)

  8. I remember when this came out it was a huge disappointment. The first one was such a smash and had built up such huge goodwill with audiences. This one just seemed like a lame remake at the time. It’s very hard to replicate a success like the first movie. It’s such a specific moment in time.

  9. I remember seeing this twice, actually. Once with my dad, a huge fan of the original (Also the woman playing the wife dated my uncle back in high school!) so we were into it.

    There were parts that made it feel really lazy. And even I, a sophomore in high school who just got dumped for the first time, realized it was a pale imitation.

    I went the second time with my friends because I always love going to movies, and my biggest takeaway was the theater had these amazing sample packets of Lowrys Seasoning Salt for the popcorn and that was the Greatest Thing To Ever Happen that summer!

  10. A shame they never made it to CITY SLICKERS IV: CURLY IN SPACE, in which we find out Curly left his katra in Bruno Kirby and they steal a space shuttle to go to Curly’s home planet and resurrect him or whatever, but there’s still hope for a legacyquel starring Jake Gyllenhaal who goes for a ride with his old man and falls in love with Curly’s granddaughter or something, who is also named Curly.

  11. My strongest memory of this project is Crystal forcing Bruno Kirby out and pretty much killing his career:

    “On 9.12.01, USA Today‘s Susan Wloszczyna interviewed Crystal as part of a press junket for America’s Sweethearts, and at one point asked for a worst-junket story: Wloszczyna: “The only thing I could come up with is that when you were making City Slickers II, you and Bruno Kirby had a falling out.” Crystal: “He wasn’t in City Slickers II.” Wloszczyna: “Yeah, I know, but there was some reason that he didn’t do it. Are you guys still friends?” Crystal: “I haven’t spoken to him — I think we are. I haven’t seen him or spoken to him in a long time.” There’s an interlude and then back to the subject. Crystal: “This is a perfect situation. We’re here to talk about the movie, and you’re talking about something personal or whatever it is that happened, I don’t know, eight, nine years ago.” Wloszczyna: “But it’s about the movie, because the subject of the movie is the press and famous people.” Crystal:: “So now you’re my worst junket story.”


  12. I’m inclined to believe Crystal is an asshole, but that column you linked is crazy! The writer admits to having an “animous” toward Crystal, does thorough research (even puts in interview requests) but the best evidence he can find to support his thesis is a pseudonymous fat-shamer post refencing a “falling out” without any further information. He implies that Crystal had Kirby blacklisted, says his “career tanked” into “obscure, direct-to-video duds,” then many paragraphs later mentions an Emmy-worthy guest star role on Homicide: Life on the Street and parts in THE BASKETBALL DIARIES, SLEEPERS and DONNIE BRASCO. And leaves out The Larry Sanders Show and a voice in STUART LITTLE.

    Plenty of people seem to have considered Crystal a pain in the ass to work with, so it makes sense Kirby wouldn’t want to do it again, but his career certainly wasn’t killed! And as a bonus it was not marred by being in CITY SLICKERS II.

  13. I’ve always liked Crystal. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY is the Rolls Royce of romantic comedies. But last time I watched CITY SLICKERS, I couldn’t get through more than 20 minutes. The lead character is just too much of an asshole to spend time on. And when Crystal in several interviews started telling the story about how Charles Bronson was offered the Jack Palance role first, but called Crystal up and said “Fuck you! I don’t die in my movies!”, I sort of gave up on him.

  14. Kate Beaton drew some comic strips depicting other franchises if their sequels were also about Curly’s Gold :

  15. Franchise Fred

    July 5th, 2024 at 1:58 pm

    IIRC the epilogue was a reshoot. The original ending was just they find out Curly’s map was for the theme park. They realized there was no gold but they had a good trip and got closer and that’s what was really important.

    Apparently test audiences didn’t like that so they shot the scene where Duke actually finds the gold and Billy Crystal is rich now.

  16. Franchise Fred

    July 5th, 2024 at 1:58 pm

    IIRC the epilogue was a reshoot. The original ending was just they find out Curly’s map was for the theme park. They realized there was no gold but they had a good trip and got closer and that’s what was really important.

    Apparently test audiences didn’t like that so they shot the scene where Duke actually finds the gold and Billy Crystal is rich now.

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