Writer Brad Copeland ("Arrested Development") can come up with a funny line and a funny sight gag or situation. Now he just has to work on doing it consistently, because "Wild Hogs" is a far more uneven comedy than you'd hope for with star-power like Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Ray Liotta, and Marisa Tomei. Whatever laugh-out-loud moments there are unfortunately are balanced by almost as many stale or purely dumb ones.
Allen plays a dentist named Doug whose wife and son are helping him watch his cholesterol and basically reminding him that he's officially middle-aged. At one point, when she tells him he should go on this road trip with his friends because he really needs it, my wife and I turned to each other at the same time and said, "City Slickers." Like that Billy Crystal film, "Wild Hogs" features a group of friends who tackle a road-trip adventure as the cure for their mid-life crises. In both films, the mellow and mild-mannered guys come up against things that test their mettle, and, after coming up short, finally prove themselves in the end.
Doug and his friends have been using their bikes and their cute little leather jackets that brand them as "Wild Hogs" as a way to escape the drudgery or disappointment of their lives. Woody (Travolta) is an agent whose marriage to a model is on the skids. Bobby (Lawrence) is forced to go back to emergency plumbing repairs after failing to write a book during a year off. And Dudley (Macy) is pretty much what his name implies, a goofus who plays a composite character that reminds us of the ones Tim Conway and Don Knotts used to hone with great precision.
The "Hogs" are a bunch of Cincinnati guys who decide to bike it to California, and they've got a week to do it . . . hey, some of them are professionals with responsibilities. So they bike here and there, stop for a drink, stop for a swim . . . . If there's a predominant theme to the running gags, aside from Dudley's do-wrongs, it's gay jokes--some of which make you laugh, while others (big surprise) just make you sick, they're some dumb or caricatured. When the Del Fuegos leader, Jack (Liotta), says to himself, "Those assholes got balls," his toadie says, snarling, "I'm gonna put them in my mouth and chew on them. For the "parump-bump," Jack turns to him and says, "You're gonna put what in your mouth???"
Law enforcement officials probably won't give this one thumbs up because all of the cops are either insultingly flaming gay, dumb as a box of donuts, or just plain incompetent. The cops in the small town of Madrid, for example, received their firearms training from the Doom video game. No wonder the town's been taken over by the Del Fuegos. They're as cowed and afraid of the motorcycle gang (originally called the Hell's Angels, before that group sued Disney) as the townspeople are. So when Bobby puts a few of them in their place (not knowing that they let him because their leader wanted the pleasure of doing them in himself), everyone is as pleased as when the "Three Amigos" have their brief moments in the sun before the Mexican bandits strike. You can see the confrontation between the Del Fuegos and the Wild Hogs coming since the middle of the first act.
Along the way, you just hope to be surprised by the occasional zinger, as when Dudley is trying to explain to the guys how tongue-tied he gets around women he's attracted to, like Maggie (Tomei): "I wanted to say something funny, but all I could think of was black jokes." Bobby responds, "Do tell. Which ones? Why don't you tell the one that ends with me beating your ass?" If only the stretches between clever lines weren't such a long and barren wasteland filled with shopworn gags and mediocrities.
Director Walt Becker tells on a commentary track and making-of feature how much of a motorcycle enthusiast he is, and a cameo by "Easy Rider"'s Peter Fonda proves it. But I have to say that it was a bit of a shocker to hear how these high-powered stars actually rode their own bikes without helmets. Each day Becker says he prayed that no one would get hurt. Except the targets of humor?
There's not much more to say about "Wild Hogs," except that the principle actors have fun and apparently want the audience to enjoy themselves too. That's not hard to do if you don't expect too much from the Hogs or their road trip. "Wild Hogs" is lightweight fun that chugs along amiably enough, despite those gags that misfire way too often.
I must be watching a lot of Blu-ray lately, because the more you do, the more you get used to a crisp picture that delivers a great amount of detail. And yet, as I watched this, never once did I think, "Boy, what a fantastic picture," as I've had happen to me while watching films like "Transporter 2." But the bright New Mexico sun cooperated with film crews and the color saturation is good.
PCM 5.1 uncompressed (48kHz, 24-bit). Enough said. You get good "rumble" from all the speakers. Additional soundtrack options are English, French, or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Wanna win a Harley? There's an insert included in both the Blu-ray and the DVD that tell you how to enter. Also included are two deleted scenes ("Molar Abscess" and "Chili Pepper") and an alternate ending featuring that flaming motorcycle cop (John C. McGinley). There's at least one Easter Egg, a dumb featurette about "How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle," a so-so "Bikes, Brawls, and Burning Bars: The Making of 'Wild Hogs,'" and a commentary by director Becker and writer Copeland that's probably the strongest of the bonus features. Although even then, there are moments where you just roll your eyes. Example? One of them says, "I could tell you some stories about the titles" and then dead silence follows. Okay, you think. Isn't the purpose of the commentary to TELL those stories?
There's nothing truly bad about this film, but also not enough to recommend it. The guys and some funny moments make "Wild Hogs" mildly entertaining, despite its being infested with more dumbness than a Jerry Springer episode.