Wild Hogs (United States, 2007)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Wild Hogs is more tired, worn out, and sagging than its protagonists - an arthritic comedy whose humor is below mediocre and whose drama is cringe-worthy. Were it not for the marketability of its stars, this movie would be headed directly for Netflix and Blockbuster, where it would gather dust. It's not surprising that the movie was made - Hollywood turns out stuff like this on a distressingly regular basis - but it is disturbing that a project on this level with a director of such poor pedigree (Walt Becker, Van Wilder) could attract so many A-level actors. Maybe they're desperate for work.

This is yet another misfire that wants us to chuckle at the antics of its characters while developing sympathy for them so when they overcome their obstacles we get that warm and fuzzy feeling deep in our breasts. In this case, it's more like heartburn. The movie laughs at its protagonists, not with them, then turns around and expects us to sympathize with these bozos who have been the brunt of pratfalls and homophobic jokes. I can't recall a recent motion picture that has gotten more comedic mileage out of a man's naked butt and the comments made by others in close proximity to it.

The "Wild Hogs" is a motorcycle gang comprised of four middle-aged suburban men: dentist Doug Madsen (Tim Allen), unemployed Woody Stevens (John Travolta), emergency sewage engineer Bobby Davis (Martin Lawrence), and computer engineer Dudley Frank (William H. Macy). When the tedium of everyday life gets them down, they decide to jump on their bikes and take a road trip, leaving behind bills, jobs, and families in favor of a week on the open road. Unfortunately, along the way, the run afoul of a real motorcycle gang - the "Del Fuegos", led by a nasty piece of work named Jack (Ray Liotta). The Hogs escape from the encounter with all but their dignity intact and end up in the small New Mexico town of Madrid. There, as Dudley woos Maggie (Marisa Tomei), the owner of a diner, and the other three engage in a game of "slap the bull," stormclouds gather. It seems the Del Fuegos know where their quarry is hiding out, and they scent blood.

The movie doesn't offer enough genuine humor to generate a live laugh track in a full theater. The jokes are predictable and pallid. What passes for drama is even worse - pabulum that would have trouble passing muster for a TV sitcom. Still, Wild Hogs is not without its share of small pleasures (none of which deserve the price of admission, even at a bargain showing). The soundtrack contains a nice mix of classic rock tunes, most of which end abruptly when William H. Macy slams his bike into one obstacle or another. There's a stunt cameo by an actor who couldn't have been better chosen for his deus ex machine role. And Marisa Tomei, looking great at age 42, adds a touch of class to a movie that overdoses on the testosterone of its mostly male cast.

For Tim Allen, this is a step up from some of his most recent endeavors, but one could argue he couldn't sink lower. Wild Hogs confirms that John Travolta's career is in free-fall. After rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the '80s with Pulp Fiction, Travolta is once again in melt-down mode. Martin Lawrence manages to be occasionally funny, which he hasn't been in a while, and William H. Macy steals a few scenes with his interpretation of what might have happened had one of the title characters from Revenge of the Nerds survived with his geekiness intact to middle age. Ray Liotta does his usual frothing at the mouth badass routine - one that has become so commonplace that we're no longer sure whether he's trying to be campy or not.

At best, Wild Hogs is tiresome and unnecessary. At worst, it's a complete waste of time. The movie's entertainment value is low - even those who don't demand much from a night at the movies won't be talking about this long after. In the end, its questionable comedic taste and inept dramatic arc make Wild Hogs both boorish and a bore.

Wild Hogs (United States, 2007)

Director: Walt Becker
Cast: Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, Marisa Tomei, Stephen Tobolowsky
Screenplay: Brad Copeland
Cinematography: Robbie Greenberg
Music: Teddy Catellucci
U.S. Distributor: Touchstone Pictures
Run Time: 1:39
U.S. Release Date: 2007-03-02
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Nudity, Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1