Directed by: Walt Becker
Starring: John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta
I need to make it clear that the only reason this movie is receiving a full-star rating, as opposed to the half-star it deserves (like recent comedic abominations Epic Movie and Reno 911!), is because I genuinely feel sorry for William H. Macy. There’s a scene in Magnolia (1999) where Macy’s character, the Quiz Kid Donnie Smith, says, “I used to be smart, but now I’m just stupid.” I can’t help but think that he must be referring to his agent, because there is no reason that Macy should be in a film by the director of Van Wilder (2002) starring two of film’s best examples of the lowest common denominator in Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence—and John Travolta isn’t far behind them. Travolta would probably be right there with them, if he weren’t still trying to shake the credibility he accidentally received after making Pulp Fiction (1994). Sure, Macy also starred in Jurassic Park III (2001), which isn’t exactly a bastion of artistic integrity, but this is ridiculous.
The real problem with the film is that it does absolutely nothing that hasn’t been done before or that you can’t see coming from a mile away (aside from its Peter Fonda ex machina ending). The plot involves four conventional forty-something’s—a plumber, a dentist, a computer programmer and whatever mystical profession Travolta’s character is supposed to have (we’re told it involves “clients”)—who realize that they’re not getting any younger and decide to take a motorcycle trek across the country. Everything is fine until they get on the wrong side of a biker gang by accidentally blowing up their bar. They then must figure out a way to diffuse the situation without receiving any bodily harm. Of course, if they had just watched Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) they would know the best way to dispatch angry bikers.
The whole concept is supposed to be rife with nonstop hilarity, complete with the requisite feel-good ending where the guys learn the true meaning of love, family and friendship. The hilarity is nonexistent, consisting more or less of gay jokes, feeble attempts at irreverence, Macy running his bike into things, Allen doing his normal Home Improvement everyman shtick and Lawrence being Lawrence. However, the film does manage the unthinkable: Lawrence isn’t its most obnoxious aspect. Unfortunately, this is only by proxy, because Travolta spends the entirety of his screen time in a homosexual panic, afraid someone might look at his “junk” or that Macy’s character might be coming on to him. Add this to the fact that the film just brims with phony machismo, and you end up with a movie with a disconcerting message. Throw in some lame sitcom-style gags, and you’ve got the gist of Wild Hogs. Even the ending is a bit suspect, since you never get the feeling that anything truly life-changing has happened to the characters, and that chances are their lives will return to normal within the week.
The film’s concept is simply obsolete and tired. In the end, it’s nothing more than a rehash of City Slickers (1991). And maybe it’s me, but I find it hard to believe in the outdated notion that there are still roving gangs of miscreant bikers who terrorize small towns. For that matter, does anyone still find Ray Liotta the tiniest bit menacing? The entire movie is a prime example of what gets passed off as comedy these days, but what else—Macy to one side—could you expect from those involved? Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and some violence.
— reviewed by Justin Souther