City Slickers (1991)

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“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” –Edward Abbey, author

On his 39th birthday, Mitch (Billy Crystal) is a few years early for his midlife crisis, but it’s here nonetheless. His unexceptional friend just got married to a supermodel. At bring-your-parent-to-school day, even the kids agree that a construction worker’s life sounds more thrilling than Mitch’s lousy job selling radio commercials. And then his wife wants to know where his smile has gone. Happy Birthday, Mitch!

Fortunately, Mitch’s best friends Phil and Ed are here to save the day. Their birthday present is a “real old-fashioned cattle drive,” where participants spend two weeks sleeping under the stars as they herd cattle from New Mexico to Colorado. After embarking on this adventure, they realize it’s not just going to be the three of them. There’s a father and son dentist duo, two ice cream entrepreneurs, a beautiful woman, a weathered old cowboy who makes Clint Eastwood look prim and proper, a drunk, and a couple of miscreants. The hilarious chemistry these characters share is the branding iron that zaps this comedy to life.

While everyone else buys a ten-gallon hat for their horseback journey, Mitch decides a New York Yankees baseball cap suits him the best. That sums up why this movie is so funny. Mitch isn’t trying to be cowboy…he is still the guy from back home who just so happens to be in a saddle. This means there’s no shortage of those down-to-earth zingers reminding us why we love Billy Crystal.

City Slickers doesn’t just deliver laughs, though. It rounds up life lessons that are even more applicable in 2016 than when the movie was made in 1991. We continue to download new apps that light up our phones with notifications. Each morning, heaps of political articles are emptied into our Facebook troughs. I currently have 263 unread messages in my inbox, which I plan on cleaning out after I finish this post. In short, how can we keep track of our big objective for life if the little objectives of today are muddled with noise? City Slickers drops three busy men in a situation where they must have only one objective: get these cattle from here to there. The plot inspires me to consider how I can hone down my life’s objective to something so straightforward and unpretentious.

Can I be honest with you? There have been times this year where I’ve felt like Mitch; the transition of moving away from home and becoming a grown up is uncannily similar to herding cattle all by yourself. (And rush hour in Los Angeles, I might add, is what it’s like to be stuck in the middle of a stampede.) City Slickers teaches us two things:

1) Surround yourself with other cowboys and cowgirls as often as you can.
2) Focus on one cow. Focus on that one thing in life that is most important to you.

Many of us will realize that this “one thing” was hidden away in all the other stuff we thought was important.