Wild Hogs (2007)
John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta
You’ve no doubt watched the trailer for “Wild Hogs” and immediately thought to yourself, “Okay, I see how the other three guys got involved in this, but what the heck is William H. Macy doing in such a lowbrow comedy?” Well, allow me to explain. Macy may be considered a more respectable actor than John Travolta, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence (especially Martin Lawrence), but he’s certainly not immune to signing up for his share of questionable film roles. In fact, with the exception of Macy’s humiliating turn, “Wild Hogs” is actually a mildly amusing road flick that will surely play well to the over-40 crowd, not to mention help validate the fledging careers of its other three costars. The film does go for the cheap laugh far too often, but it’s certainly not bad enough to be grouped along with the rest of this season’s trash.
The Wild Hogs of the title are actually four middle-aged friends looking for some much-needed excitement in their boring, suburban lives. There’s Doug (Allen), the party animal-turned-domestic family man; Bobby (Lawrence), the henpecked husband; Dudley (Macy), the geeky computer programmer; and Woody (Travolta), the enviable success story of the four friends. Every week, the four guys take part in a weekly motorcycle ritual that begins as a joyride through the streets of Cincinnati and ends with a beer at the local bar, but when Woody suggests a cross-country road trip to the West Coast (mostly to help him forget about losing his job and swimsuit-model wife), the guys fire up their hogs and embark on the trip of a lifetime. Along the way, they cross paths with the Del Fuegos, a real biker gang (led by Ray Liotta) that develops a personal vendetta against the Harley-riding suburbanites when Woody accidentally blows up their hangout. The chase leads both parties to the town of Madrid, NM, where the townspeople have long been terrorized by the notorious gang.
It’s in the small town where the film takes a turn for the worse, switching gears from comical road movie to silly rendition of “Seven Samurai,” with the over-the-hill men presumably meant to protect the townspeople from the Del Fuegos. Of course, the detour does allow for a semi-interesting romance between Macy and the always-charming Marissa Tomei to blossom, but probably because that’s the only way they could convince the veteran actor to sign up for the project. It’s not a bad trade, to be honest; I don’t know a single man who wouldn’t agree to being publicly humiliated for 98-minutes in exchange for the chance to make out with Tomei.
With the exception of Travolta and Liotta (whose over-the-top performances get away from the actors well before the midway mark), the rest of the performances are pretty low-key; especially Lawrence, who has a tendency to get annoying as soon as he opens his mouth. This time around, however, he’s surprisingly tame. Equally so is the script, written by Brad Copeland (“Arrested Development,” “My Name Is Earl”), only further proving that broad comedy is where all the money is these days. Still, the movie isn’t completely hopeless, and while many of the jokes are hit-and-miss, cameos by character actors like John C. McGinley, Stephen Tobolowsky and Kyle Gass (not to mention a last minute appearance by the Easy Rider himself, Peter Fonda) help to make the rough spots much easier to swallow. Plus, with an end credit sequence that’s more hilarious than the movie itself (and no, it’s not the usual B-roll of outtakes), it’s hard not to at least recommend seeing this when it hits DVD.
The single-disc release of “Wild Hogs” isn’t anything to get excited over, but when has a DVD from Buena Vista ever caused such a reaction? The included audio commentary with director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland is dull, while the 16-minute making-of featurette (“Bikes, Brawls and Burning Bars”) feels more like a promo reel than an actual behind-the-scenes documentary. Also included is a throwaway extra about “How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle,” three deleted scenes (with optional commentary), and a short outtakes reel that is even less funny than the movie.