Crystal's Back In The Saddle

There have been and will be worse sequels than City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold, but there are few that seem so unnecessary. Now that Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) has recovered from his midlife crisis and is riding tall in the saddle, what uplifting life lessons does he need to learn from another exposure to the Wild West? Just that every overgrown boy needs a jolt of adventure every now and then to find his smile again. This message does not seem to inspire Crystal and fellow screenwriters Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz to great heights of invention. They've dug into their bag of old movie archetypes, grabbed for ""The Treasure of the Sierra Madre'' and figured, ""Why the hell not?'' With a treasure map he's found in the late Curly's hat, Mitch -- still inexplicably eager to escape his wife, though he was spiritually reborn in the original -- sets off in quest of buried treasure. He's accompanied by his two stooges, the lonely-guy nerd Phil (Daniel Stern) and his albatross of a brother Glen (Jon Lovitz), a middle-aged slacker fond of quoting speeches from ""Godfather II.'' Jack Palance's inconvenient demise in the original proves no problem: he returns as his own identical twin brother, which may give you some idea of the bold originality at play here. Crystal was more appealing in the first go-round; now that he's a born-again cowboy, a hint of smugness takes some of the fun out of him. ""Slickers II,'' directed by Paul Weiland, is so harmless it's numbing: a little male bonding, some sagebrush slapstick, a couple of decent quips and a gift-wrapped moral. I kept wondering how the filmmakers mustered up the energy to go to work every morning.