On the surface, Wild Hogs is a harmless comedy about the skulldrudgery of modern suburban life and not fading into that good night without a fight. Actually that’s about all there is to it, nothing really deeper than a plot that involves four, bored, middle-aged men seeking to regain lost youth and virility on the back of their motorcycles along the highways that go from Cincinnati to the West Coast. The secret is that Wild Hogs isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, not entirely funny enough to be worth your ten bucks, but not bad for a night at the second-run theatre or home video.
The film stars Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy as Doug, Woody, Bobby and Dudley. This quartet form a local motorcycle gang called the Wild Hogs, although they are technically really only motorcycle enthusiasts. Woody is the one that proposes the road trip in the face of his crumbling life including a lost job and a pending divorce. The shy and bumbling Dudley just goes along with Woody, so he’s in. Doug collapses from a stress induced episode and his wife concludes that a relaxing road trip will be of therapeutic value. And Bobby feels smothered by his wife and thus wants to get out from under her nagging finger…and he doesn’t need her permission to do it. Once on the road they encounter the perils of camping, piss off a real bad ass biker gang led by Ray Liotta, and experience the joys of male bonding.
The chemistry between the four main characters is one of the reasons why this works as well as it does; you really believe that these guys have been friends forever. The Hogs also do well in selling some of the more sitcom-y scenarios like when they accidentally light their tent on fire, or when the closeted gay cop comes across their campsite thinking they’re a group of equally gay campers. It can be silly, sully stuff and Macy takes so many pratfalls that Curly Howard would have cried ‘Uncle’. The film also plays off the all too typical Hollywood myth that life in Middle America after the age of 40 is so intolerable that you have to get out of town and blow-up a biker bar in order to get your groove back.
I was surprised to see that the movie was written by Brad Copeland, one of the geniuses behind Arrested Development (incidentally the film was directed by the guy that made Van Wilder). There’s a definite kind of sardonic bite to the dialogue, but if it all possible the movie will pass in order to make a greater ass of John Travolta than he’s already made himself. There is, though, a hilarious epilogue involving the biker gang and the crew from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, as well as a few funny cameos from Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass, and Peter Fonda as a legendary biker.
Bottom line is that this is a slightly better than average comedy that comes this close to falling into sitcom territory with its darn near familiar characters and circumstances. It’s a solid family comedy that doesn’t break the mould nor could it be bothered to do so. The cynics won’t like it, and I thought I counted myself among them, but Wild Hogs can be a rather enjoyable way to whittle away an afternoon, stupid jokes and all.