"The disappointments of midlife," writes Dr. David Brandt, a psychologist, "all revolve around one central theme — now that I know what it's really about, I'm disappointed that's all there is." The lead character in City Slickers certainly feels that way.

Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a 40-year-old radio ad salesman who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children. He feels trapped in a humdrum existence and is so unenthusiastic about his job that he embarrasses his nine-year-old son by giving a lackluster speech during career week at the boy's school. Mitch's tolerant wife says, "Go and find your smile." So he joins his best friends, Ed (Bruno Kirby, a sporting good store owner, and Phil (Daniel Stern), a grocer, for a two-week vacation on a working dude ranch. After learning the rudiments of riding and roping, they head out into the wilderness on a cattle drive led by Curly (Jack Palance).

Crystal gives a tour de force comic performance as a smart-aleck who gets in touch with the nurturing side of himself he's kept hidden. Amidst all the kibbitzing, Mitch, Ed, and Phil let down their hair with each other and for the first time experience male camaraderie that goes beyond surface pranks. Screenplay writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel who triumphed with Parenthood keep the magic going here in a rousing, up-tempo movie sparkling with ribald humor and moments of genuine emotional power. City Slickers, directed by Ron Underwood, is one of the funniest of the many interesting and diverting films about middle age.