March 8, 2007

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Wild Hogs (PG-13)
Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy live out some sad middle-aged biker movie fantasy in Wild Hogs, a movie about four men who live out some sad middle-aged biker road trip fantasy.

If you weren’t in Easy Rider in 1969, you have to come to terms with it because you can’t go back and be in it now. In fact, the most obvious Easy Rider reference in this movie (a cameo by Peter Fonda) does nothing but decrease the 1969’s film’s street cred.

Doug (Allen) is a dentist with a happy family but a desire for a little excitement. Bobby (Lawrence) is a failed novelist whose wife has henpecked him back into a plumbing job. Dudley (Macy) is a nerdy tech guy who can’t talk to women. But Woody Stevens (Travolta) is the saddest one of all — he’s a middle-aged adolescent who has lost his money and with it his trophy wife and his giant house. Looking to avoid those problems, Woody goads Doug, Bobby and Dudley into taking to the road for a week-long ride to the coast.

The trip starts out dorkily enough, with the men throwing away their cellphones, burning down their tents (accidentally) and swimming naked, purely for the giggles of it. But then the boys decide to stop at a “real” biker bar — their biker bar at home is run by an accountant and full of fellow weekend wannabe road warriors. This biker bar belongs to the Del Fuegos, a gang that seems to have simply made some minor costume adjustments from playing a crew of pirates in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. They are a crazy-eyed bunch led by Jack (Ray Liotta), the most crazy-eyed of them all. Jack picks on the foursome and steals Dudley’s bike. The group heads away from the bar but then Woody’s little Woody gets the better of him and he goes back to teach those bikers what’s what. Instead, he steals Dudley’s bike and blows up the bar. Though the guys don’t know it, they are now being chased by Del Fuegos as they continue their find-your-inner-manhood adventure.

I’m not sure who the audience for this movie is. The jokes and pratfalls are fairly wiener-based and seemed funniest (in the theater where I saw the movie) to older elementary school/younger high school kids. And yet this isn’t, strictly speaking, a family film — there’s too much violence and a fair amount of raunch for little kids.

It treats the main foursome as a group of men sharing one simian-level brain, which would make it seem like a rather condescending piece of comedy for the Baby Boomers it seems to want to reach. God knows women won’t find it appealing; the wives are mild pushovers, gold diggers or harpies.

Not to strike a pose too similar to those arms-crossed, eyebrow-arched wives, but this movie is nothing but wearing. Its child-men are whiny, hysteria-prone and unappealing, with the possible and occasional exception of Macy’s Dudley, whose extra-knee-pad mentality makes him a less complex cousin to Steve Carell’s character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. His character is the only one that has something approaching an arc, the only who really comes out the other side of the trip any different as a person than when he went it.

Aw, William H. Macy, even in crap your quality shines through. D

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and some violence. Directed by Walt Becker and written by Brad Copeland, Wild Hogs is an hour and 39 minutes long and is distributed by Buena Vista Pictures