Wild Hogs (2007) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for crude humor, sexual content, nudity, language and violence
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Durabd, M.C. Gainey, Jill Hennessy, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Hitchcock, John C. McGinley, Kyle Gass, Peter Fonda
Director: Walt Becker
Screenplay: Brad Copeland
Not a good movie, but also not without a certain entertainment value, Wild Hogs makes up for paltry plotting and shallow characterizations with the help of charismatic comedic actors and some cute and clever scenes interspersed at just enough regular intervals to make it palatable enough for fans of the leads. In many ways, it's the City Slickers formula all over again: toss in some likeable but long-in-the-tooth personalities, add some ingratiatory scenes where they are taken out of their natural element, have them interact with an assortment of kooky supporting characters, and oodles and oodles of forced male bonding. Formulaic it may be, but it works in its own fashion. With only a bit more thought as to the main plot, Wild Hogs might have had a chance to go from a bad-but-cute entertainment to one of the more pleasant comedy diversions of the year.
This shaky plot involved four middle-aged friends from Ohio who find themselves in need of a spark to their lives, having become complacent by settling in to career and family duties that have all but eroded at their formerly cool reputations. Frustrated that they've become the kind of men they swore they'd never be, they decide to hop on their motorcycles for a one-week road trip to the California coast -- no cell phones, no significant others, and no predermination -- just the open road and a desire to feel a sense of freedom for a little while. Plenty of calamities occur along the way, not the least of which comes in the way of a gang of real bikers known as the Del Fuegos, who make them pay their toll for daring to pose as a biker gang. Disrespected, but determined not to punk out, the Wild Hogs strike back, only to find that they've shaken up a hornets nest that they may not be able to escape from.
Although relatively inoffensive as far as off-color comedies go, those sensitive to such things should be warned that the film is full of some spicy sexual dialogue and more than its share of gay jokes, mostly at the expense of the four bonding brothers on bikes. One should note the reputation of director Walt Becker, who has often crossed the line in terms of dipping in the homophobic gags for easy laughs in such sophomoric efforts as Van Wilder and Buying the Cow. As dated as some of these jokes may be, they do deliver some of the more memorably funny gags, and along with the usual slapstick scenes of the men falling off their bike or crashing into things, the age and friendly familiarity of the performers allows them to get away with most of it without coming across as too crass or insulting to mar the overall vibe of the adventure.
Wild Hogs is mostly just a collection of comic scenes involving four buddies with different personalities getting into all sorts of trouble, and while it is in this mode, it does offer some modest enjoyment. Eventually, these scenes solidify into a predictable battle for who has the biggest balls with the Del Fuegos, and while these scenes don't equal the laughs or fun quotient of the build-up, by this point in the film, we like the four heroes just enough to want to see them gain the upper hand in the end.
Still, while it may deliver enough of a good time for mainstream multiplex audiences, Wild Hogs is mostly disposable, and it certainly isn't likely to rescuscitate the careers of its waning box-office performers. However, if you're a die-hard fan of the stars, it's probably worth a look to see Travolta (Lonely Hearts, Be Cool) , Lawrence (Big Momma's House 2, Rebound) or Allen (Zoom, The Shaggy Dog) in something that captures why they've lasted as long as they have even after continuously making terrible movies that people still flock to just to see them. With classic rock tunes, some fine capturing of the allure of great American outdoors, and actors who look like they're genuinely having a good time (a rare treat, given their recent track records), it's easy to overlook the lack of wit in the screenplay in exchange for some sporadically-amusing, escapist laughs. Definitely not for refined tastes (these viewers will no doubt define Wild Hogs as "pig slop"), this is fast food entertainment for audiences who enjoy dining at the greasiest of greasy spoon diners from time to time.
©2007 Vince Leo