Some very good friends told me about this picture several months before I got to see it (for the first and only time) on DVD. They had gone to a multiplex to see a different movie that had sold out, and the only other show playing at that hour was "Wild Hogs." They said they were reluctant to see it but afterwards were happy with the result. It was silly but fun. Armed with that foreknowledge, I ventured into the world of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-American guys turning in their Toro mowers for Harley choppers. Although my reaction was not quite so enthusiastic as my friends', the movie was not entirely unbearable. In fact, it has its moments, if not so many as I would have liked.
The idea of the story is to take four average Joes and put them on a road trip. But the real idea of the movie is to take four well-known actors and hope they can generate some chemistry together. Individually, these guys can be pretty good in movies. As one, they should have been even better goes the theory. Yeah, well, not quite.
The four guys are Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy. To tell you how odd the movie turned out, it's Macy who gets all the best laughs.
Allen plays a fellow named Doug Madsen, a Cincinnati dentist with an ostensibly perfect family, whose life bores him because he's boring. Even his kid thinks he's boring. His best friend from high school is Woody Stevens, played by Travolta. Woody is a tax lawyer whose supermodel wife is leaving him and whose world is falling apart. Lawrence plays Bobby Davis, a plumber-turned-writer whose wife henpecks him, whose teenage daughter disses him, whose youngest daughter screams at him, and whose live-in mother-in-law nags him. Then, there's Dudley Frank, played by Macy, a shy, klutzy computer geek who's single because he can't get up enough nerve to talk to a girl.
These four losers have been riding motorcycles in a social group they call the "Wild Hogs," and now they decide to do something really dangerous and exciting to reawaken their spirit for living: they'll go on a one-week road trip. They'll throw their cell phones away, live under the stars, and without a map just head West.
As a portent of things to come, Macy has the best sight gag in the show close to the beginning. Things don't pick up again until the closing credits, which include some of the funniest bits in the movie, so stick around, if you can.
After a seemingly interminable amount of time spent on homophobic jokes (four guys traveling and sleeping next to one another prompts the screenwriter to wring as much as possible from the situation), which get old fast, the main conflict develops. Our "Hogs" meet up with a real motorcycle gang, the Del Fuegos (a substitute name for the Hell's Angels, who threatened to sue if the filmmakers used their moniker), lead by a tough cookie named Jack, played by tough cookie Ray Liotta. The Del Fuegos don't take kindly to strangers, especially strangers pretending to be real bikers. It's at this point that the movie goes seriously downhill. Before this, the film was merely innocuously silly; after upsetting the Del Fuegos, the film gets downright stupid.
Still, there are two pleasant touches. Marisa Tomei does a nice, if all-too-brief, turn as a small-town cafe owner who sparks a romantic interest in Macy's character; and another star shows up in a surprise role. Unfortunately, the script gives neither actor much to do.
"Wild Hogs" references any number of other motion pictures along the way, most notably Marlon Brando's "The Wild Ones," Peter Fonda's "The Wild Angels" and "Easy Rider," Clint Eastwood's "A Fistful of Dollars," and even Paul Newman's "Cool Hand Luke." It's just a shame the references are either too obvious or unamusing.
So, we've got Allen, Travolta, Lawrence, Macy, Liotta, and Tomei, plus the excellent Steve Landesberg (think "Barney Miller) as an accountant and the dependable hard-case M.C. Gainey as a hard-case gang member all pretty much wasted on lame, empty jokes and general foolishness. Nevertheless, as my friends said, it's silly fun in an empty-headed sort of way. You go into "Wild Hogs" with low expectations, and it easily fulfills them.
Touchstone Pictures presented the movie theatrically in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and BV do a good job preserving it on disc, the anamorphic transfer measuring about 2.23:1 across my television, given a small degree of overscan. The colors are quite vibrant without being too unrealistic; let's say they're healthy. The object delineation is decent enough, if a tad soft, for a standard-definition disc. And the screen itself is admirably clean, free of any noticeable dirt, noise, or grain.
The main thing the Dolby Digital 5.1 processing has to do is convey the loudness of the soundtrack, which it nicely accomplishes. There is a fairly wide dynamic range, with plenty of punch, and an equally wide front-channel stereo spread. Deepest bass seems lacking, but there is hardly any call for it, anyhow. Nor is there an abundance of surround information; just enough to keep one interested, with motor sounds, musical ambience, and the like.
The disc comes with the usual assortment of bonus items, most of them about as middle-of-the-road as the movie. First, there's the mandatory audio commentary, this one with director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland. They are well meaning fellows but less-than-stimulating talkers. Next is a sixteen-minute, making-of featurette, "Bikes, Brawls and Burning Bars: The Making of Wild Hogs," with comments from the cast and crew. After that is a three-minute featurette, "How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle," which I'm still not sure about. Then, there are two deleted scenes and an alternate ending, with optional director commentary, followed by about two minutes of outtakes.
The extras conclude with fifteen scene selections and a chapter insert; Sneak Peeks at fifteen other Buena Vista products; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and a handsomely embossed slipcover.
I'm not sure how well it speaks of a comedy if, as I've said, the funniest scenes come during the closing credits. Stick around for them, though, or you'll miss the best part of the show.
"Well, Wild Hogs, ride hard or stay home. Oh, and guys, lose the watches."