Director: Walt Becker
Cast: Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei
MPAA Rating: (for crude and sexual content, and some violence)
Running Time: 1:39
Release Date: 3/2/07
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Like the view on an open highway, you can see everything that happens in Wild Hogs coming from a mile away. A tedious exercise of a midlife crisis comedy, the movie is more like watching four actors go through their own career midlife crises. First there's Tim Allen, who went from standup comic to sitcom star to promising comic feature future to being type-cast in cheesy family fare. Then there's Martin Lawrence, who had a similar route to Allen's but ended up making his career in drag. Third, continuing his downward slope, is John Travolta, whose career fallout/comeback ratio is decidedly weighted in the former's direction. Rounding out the quartet is William H. Macy, a great actor apparently trying to get some mainstream exposure. Put the four on motorcycles, send them across the country, and set up a sadly formulaic road trip story, filling the script with cliché after cliché, hoping it all works out for the best. It does not. Wild Hogs is an innocuous, monotonous comedy that at least has a playful spirit, but its tone doesn't amount to much when pitted against forced shtick and an even more forced attempt at a plot.
Allen plays Doug Madsen, a dentist with a sexy wife (Jill Hennessy) and a son who gets to eat bacon while he's left with grapefruit. Lawrence is Bobby Davis, whose year timeline to write is over and whose wife (Tichina Arnold) is forcing to go back to being a plumber. Macy is Dudley Frank, a computer guy who has difficulties with the ladies. Travolta is Woody Stevens, a formerly rich man with bankruptcy and divorce pending. Occasionally the four friends go riding on their motorcycles together, donning leather jackets with patches that Doug's wife designed and sewed, bearing their gang's name the Wild Hogs, and hitting a local bar for drinks. One afternoon out, Woody proclaims his midlife frustrations with his buddies and suggests that they all take a road trip out to California on their bikes. Dudley has no qualms. Bobby knows his wife would never let him, and a lie about a convention covers that. Doug is hesitant, but after suffering a panic attack at the dinner table, he takes his wife's suggestion that he should. All meeting together on the freeway and throwing away their cell phones, they hit the road to the coast.
Yes, it's male bonding time, just like that movie Deliverance, to which Woody compares their trip in one of the movie's few funny lines. Their first day on the road a bust (a group of college girls laughs as they huddle together under tarps to hide from the rain), they all gather around the campfire and woe about how their lives haven't turned out the way they thought they would. This isn't any kind of introspective look at the middle-aged male psyche, though, as we're quickly reminded when Doug throws his flaming marshmallow behind him, setting their tent ablaze (Dudley literally adds fuel to the fire). Spending the night together lined up on an air mattress, they awake to a cop (John C. McGinley) watching over them. Have we still not moved beyond the homophobic stereotype of the perverted gay man? Apparently not, because here it is. Just shy of drooling while telling the men how lucky they are, it's a scene that sends the movie to a crashing stop. It's not over yet, though, as the patrolman reappears to join the men for some skinny dipping after they've scared away a family.
Fortunately, there's no second encore appearance, and while the rest of the gags are nowhere near as narrow-minded, they fall flat for familiarity and banality. Bugs hit the guys as they're riding, and a bird hits Woody after he's done laughing at them. A weird karaoke singer is thrown in at a festival they attend. They have the opportunity to slap a bull, and after escaping, it gets out of its pen to wreak some more havoc. And so on. As though the jokes weren't flat enough, there is a pathetic plot thrown in around the halfway mark, as the guys go to a real biker bar and incur the wrath of the Del Fuegos, whose leader is played by Ray Liotta. Woody accidentally blows up their bar, forcing the suburban bikers into hiding in a small town. Needless to say, the gang hunts them down, and there's a standoff between our heroes and the real bikers. The cast is lost in this one. Allen and Lawrence are kept on the sidelines—good for them—and make no impression, and Travolta's uncomfortably over-the-top attempts to earn laughs from his character's desperation is baffling. Only Macy comes out unscathed as the bumbling Dudley, whose perfection of one really lame dance move helps to woo a pretty townie played by Marisa Tomei.
It plays out exactly as we expect—no surprises, no frills, and little laughs. When an icon of motorcycle cinema emerges at the finale to give our heroes his blessing and apparently pass on the torch, it's more sad than anything else the movie is hoping to achieve with the moment. Wild Hogs is tiring stuff.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.