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Urban Cowboy
1980 - PG - 132 Mins.
Director: James Bridges
Written By: James Bridges
Starring: John Travolta, Debra Winger, Barry Corbin, Scott Glenn, Cooper Huckabee
Review by: John Ulmer
   
What is there to say about a film that features John Travolta in a cowboy hat and loads of awful honky tonk music? Not much. Let's just say that "Saturday Night Fever" this is not.

But still, it surprisingly created an entire fad of modern-day cowboys across the entire United States of America, which is a sad thing to think about, given that the film sucked to begin with. Honestly, why in the world would a movie like this inspire Americans to go out to their local city costume shops and dress up as urban cowboys? Apart from looking absolutely, astonishingly ridiculous, what else does this accomplish? The funniest thing about fads is that I often find they're started by stupid, stupid things.

Surprised as I was to see this being featured on AMC, I gave it a chance and can't find anything very commendable or recommendable. Riding the waves of 1977's smash hit, "Saturday Night Fever," which of course starred John Travolta in that niiiice white suit, "Urban Cowboy" is about as close to a remake as one can get. Change the locations, change the co-stars, and change the music. It's all the same. This could be considered an unofficial sequel to the film if there weren't one already (the forgettable sequel to "Saturday Night Fever," "Staying Alive," directed by Sylvester Stallone, was even worse than "Urban Cowboy," which is some sort of miracle).

Basically, the plot is this: Bud David (Travolta) moves out to the big city in order to visit his uncle. Once there, he goes to a country bar named Gilley's, where he meets and falls in love with Sissy (Debra Winger), who suddenly marries him and then gets in a fight with him after he sees her with a con man named Wes, who plans to rob Gilley's. Meanwhile, in the "main plot" of the film, Bud applies for a mechanical bull contest and tries to patch up his relationship with Sissy. That's basically the plot. No emotional underpinnings like "Saturday Night Fever," no message about trying to break away from boredom and be someone--anyone--for a single night other than yourself.

Just dancing. Dancing, singing, and bad direction. In "Saturday Night Fever," the dance floor was used as a backdrop. Sure, it was shown on screen a heck of a lot, but it was also used as a metaphor. Tony Manero wanted something more than the life he was living. Disco dancing was his one way out, his chance to be king for a night rather than schmuck for a lifetime.

None of this is present in "Urban Cowboy," which is sort of sad. The film tries to make us feel for Travolta's character by using ancient plot cliches. And we're supposed to feel uplifted and inspired when he gains the respect of a bunch of drunken boot-wearing, leather-laden, drunken cowboys? Whatever.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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