|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 01 January 2008|
“Wild Hogs” is a fun film a starring quartet who know their stuff and probably had a great time working together. “Wild Hogs” is not Hollywood movie making magic with a message or a moral or any serious issues.
Take four actors who can and have pretty much done it all, from outrageous comedy to serious drama, throw them together in a movie that promises a road trip and a chance for each of them to strut their stuff, and shake well with pre-packaged expectations along with a wild card or two, and you could end up with “Wild Hogs”. It sounds a lot like the road trip movies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, two guys who also knew their ways around comedy and serious picture-making.
However, “Wild Hogs” probably isn’t going to be something that carried the kind of street cred those movies did back in their day. It was probably an actors’ get-together like the “Oceans” movies have become for George Clooney and Brad Pitt and their gang. It was a good excuse to work together, have some fun, and get a paycheck at the end of things.
And it sounds a lot like the plot of the movie. Take a dentist (Tim Allen) who’s stressed out over family life and can’t seem to connect with his son these days, a fashion model’s husband (John Travolta) who’s just been divorced and fired, a henpecked plumber (Martin Lawrence) who gets no respect at home, and a computer nerd (William H. Macy) who’s never had a girl in his life – then put them on a road trip as ersatz bikers. On the face of things, it looks like it just won’t work out.
John Travolta has learned a lot during the course of his career, and one of the most important is how to share the stage with co-stars. He’s able to seize the limelight when it’s his turn to standout, but he just as easily hands it off and almost disappears into the woodwork in this film. Not only that, but here he’s Woody, the guy whose fashion model wife just dumped him and who lost his business as an attorney because he couldn’t get his focus back. He’s a total loser in the real world, but he keeps up the act in front of his friends.
Tim Allen has always known how to share the stage in his television career. He started out as a standup comic, utterly alone, then got hooked up with “Home Improvement” and a stellar cast that played off each other extremely well. As Doug, the dentist who can’t connect with his son, he pretty much fills the shoes he did on the television sit-com that propelled him to stardom.
Martin Lawrence has always been known for doing edgy comedy, and he doesn’t look like he’d fit in the suburban theme that’s generated for this film. Especially not as the henpecked husband, Bobby. He fits in, but he clunks a little in places where he depends on the same shtick he brought to his television show, “Martin”, and movies like “Big Momma’s House”.
William H. Macy is truly one of our most gifted actors. A director could plunk him down in the middle of any movie, give Macy a part to play, and he could run with it and make an audience a believer in whatever he was trying to sell them. He plays Dudley, a socially inept computer programmer, as though the part was specifically written for him. In fact, he’s so well liked in Hollywood that he’s well booked for upcoming movies.
These four men have banded together through thick and thin and gone on annual short rides on their motorcycles. Only now Woody’s life is in the toilet and he feels like he needs a big adventure before he has to own up to that and start over.
Viewers know things aren’t going to go well from the beginning when Woody throws Doug’s GPS/phone away, which triggers Doug into smashing Woody’s phone. Bobby gives up his willingly because he doesn’t want his wife calling--he told her he was going to a conference. And Dudley gives up his because he wants to be like everyone else. Unfortunately, when he throws his phone away, he smashes the window of a passing truck and draws the ire of the driver.
The movie is certainly predictable, but still watchable. The camping scenes where they keep bumping into the gay Highway Patrolman (John C. McGinley, “Scrubs”) are funny, but most viewers could have scripted the scenes themselves. When they’re caught sleeping together after accidentally burning down their tent, the dialogue is serviceable, but not memorable. Still, there are chuckles because the four play the straight guys (literally) and McGinley has a blast riffing Mr. Sensitivity. However, no explanation is ever given for Dudley taking off his pants. The scene wouldn’t have been the same if he’d had them on, but something felt incomplete about the action.
The bug/crow scene feels almost thrown in to pad the length. It’s funny, but definitely not necessary. It comes out of nowhere and fades off into the same.
The lasting plotline throughout is the enmity with the Del Fuegos, a badass biker gang who preys on the small town citizens in New Mexico where the Wild Hogs run into them. Ray Liotta is usually a great psychopathic character, but in the film he has to walk a very thin line. Normally he’s a scary guy, but in this context most viewers will know that he can’t do anything to anyone. Even though he constantly punches out one of his own men, he’s ultimately about as threatening as a caged cobra. Even when he strikes, there’s still the glass wall to keep him from doing any harm.
Another scene that really feels added on is the bull-butt slapping challenge. It just appeared in the movie, played out with dialogue that isn’t anything more than filler and expected one-liners, and moves off-screen in the same fashion. It didn’t really add anything.
The Blu-ray presentation is absolutely phenomenal. The images are sharp and filled with color. The cameramen really got to roll out their artistry when the landscape changed from urban settings to the great outdoors. The countryside is breathtakingly beautiful, and the high definition presentation does it justice.
The audio is fantastic as well. The music is top-notch and rolls through the surround sound system and even kicks the subwoofer into action frequently. Of course, the throbbing Harley motors do that on a regular basis too.
Director Walt Becker obviously knew what he wanted to present in the film, and what he wanted to get from each of the stars, as well as when. The feeling from the commentary with the writer, Brad Copeland, is that the two men worked on every facet of the story together. The cutting was excellent, and the deleted scenes show that. The only thing that seems to be missing is any kind of indication as to how Woody ends up after his divorce and bankruptcy. That storyline seems to have gotten orphaned somewhere along the way.
The special features bring a little more pizzazz to the disc. The outtakes are hilarious, but they’re expected to be considering the cast. The deleted scenes are interesting, and the alternate ending is fun to have. The best part about the commentary and the “making-of” feature are all the behind-the-scenes stories. Viewers who found the movie tolerable will probably enjoy the guided trip back through everything.
With the level of bad language involved, and it’s surprisingly tame given the presence of John Travolta and Martin Lawrence, parents might want to view the movie first before allowing small children to watch it. Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable family feature with enough mindless laughs to keep most folks happy. The scenes of Ty Pennington during the end credits are pure gold. The fact that he delivered them with a straight face is amazing.