Wild Hogs (Touchstone Pictures, PG-13)

film_hogs_smThe sprawling desert scenery and hard-rock soundtrack work only to remind the audience that they are seeing techniques and style taken from a classic film.

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when John Travolta's career was resurrected in the early ’90s? And remember when Tim Allen had a hit series for almost a decade, albeit a sitcom? And remember when Martin Lawrence's comedy broke racial barriers in the late ’80s? And do you remember when William H. Macy was creating vivid, colorful characters in the latest David Mamet production, whether it be on stage or screen? Let's remember those times.

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For 2007, these actors have teamed up for a not very original, but pleasant enough, comedy. Wild Hogs is a buddy road movie about four middle-aged men who are all trying to ride away from some aspect of their lives. Doug (Allen) is a successful dentist who is practically invisible to his son, with whom he only wants to bond. Woody (Travolta) was a powerful lawyer up until about six months ago when his supermodel wife left him; now, he is broke and alone. Bobby (Lawrence) is brow-beaten by his wife and cleans gas station bathrooms when not writing a How-To book. And finally, there is Dudley (Macy). He's a computer programmer who desperately wants the companionship of a woman, but can't articulate a single thought when in their presence. This is the Wild Hogs motorcycle gang.

The men set off on a cross-country trip, free of responsibility and family. The gang's adventure begins when they stop off at a real biker bar in New Mexico owned by the Del Fuegos, the toughest motorcycle gang around. Their leader, Jack (Ray Liotta), makes a point of bullying and humiliating the men before sending them on their way. When Woody tries to get even, the Hogs get more adventure than they had previously anticipated.

Director Walt Becker, who also directed the frat boy hit Van Wilder, lifts much of the tone and camera work directly from Easy Rider. The sprawling desert scenery and hard-rock soundtrack work only to remind the audience that they are seeing techniques and style taken from a classic film.

More distracting than the rehashed message and images are the cameo roles that inundate the movie. Liotta is his normal, over-the-top self as a man who intimidates others for no reason. Marisa Tomei pops up as Maggie, a love interest for Dudley who barely registers as a character in the 35 minutes she is onscreen. John C. McGinley has a humorous few scenes as a highway cop who is excited to see four grown men becoming so close.

Not all is bad, though. Wild Hogs was written by Brad Copeland, who was a writer on Arrested Development and My Name Is Earl. There are some funny scenes, mainly thanks to Macy's totally clueless Dudley. The actors all look like they're having a good time with the dialogue and pass that feeling on to the audience. Don't go expecting a breath of fresh air, maybe just a whiff of familiar tailpipe exhaust. | Matthew F. Newlin

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