June 17, 1991 12:00 PM

Billy Crystal, Jack Palance

The first half of this film is very funny, in a Hee Haw vs. thirtysomething way. Crystal, Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern, three urban mid-life crisis victims, join a Colorado cattle drive—a cowboy version of a baseball-fantasy ramp: Palaner is a tough trail boss.

Smart guys and good ol’ boys deal out lots of amusing folly and wisdom, thanks to writers Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz (they wrote Parenthood).

Crystal, berating Kirby, says, “Have you noticed that the older you get, the younger are the girls you date? Soon you’ll be dating sperm.”

The insidiously engaging Palance packs world-weariness even into lighting a cigarette. Midway through, though, he is killed off. So are the film’s flowing wit and charm.

The last hour tends to serious drama, as the dudes bring the cattle in on their own. Crystal is obsessed with a calf he helped birth; in one long scene he risks his life saving the would-be saltim-bocca from a raging creek.

Back in New York City, the film oozes to a happy end as Crystal solemnly says, “I’m not gonna quit my job. I’m just gonna do it better. I’m gonna do everything better.” The obvious punch line to this gunky speech is Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” But director Ron (Tremors) Underwood muffs the chance, having buried his sense of humor on the lone prairie along with old Jack. (PG-13)

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