Goodwill takes you only so far when it comes to sequels. Billy Crystal and Oscar winner Jack Palance pumped enough juice into City Slickers to create a blockbuster western jokefest in 1991. But this lumbering retread, subtitled The Legend of Curly’s Gold, is mostly old ground slavishly covered. Palance is back even though his trail-boss character died in the first movie. He hams it up as Duke, Curly’s twin, a seafaring villain in search of his brother’s treasure map.
It’s Mitch (Crystal) who finds the map hidden in Curly’s hat rim. Visions of gold in his head, Mitch takes leave of his wife (Patricia Wettig) and his Manhattan radio job and heads out West with his divorced pal Phil (Daniel Stern). Actor Bruno Kirby, another buddy in the first movie, is out, and Jon Lovitz is in as Glen, Mitch’s black-sheep brother.
The sibling stuff gives the script — by Crystal and Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel — a chance to push the male-bonding theme that weighed so heavily on the original Slickers. Crystal is a sucker for sentiment, and he lays it on without shame as risking life and limb brings the feuding brothers together for hugs and indigestible therapy speak about the importance of family values.
There are wider gaps between the jokes this time, and the slick style of British director Paul Weiland, best known for commercials (Schweppes, Heineken), can’t disguise the fact that he’s selling stale goods. Lovitz is the film’s saving grace. Glen’s fixation on the Godfather movies has nothing to do with the plot, but it’s a blessed relief from it. The gimmick frees Lovitz to spout such lines as “I know who put the hit out on Frankie Pantangeli” and to hum the Nino Rota Godfather theme when he’s lost in a mine shaft. The freshness of his character gives Lovitz a chance to find new laughs. Everyone else connected with City Slickers II seems more concerned with guarding a golden franchise.