Wild Hogs boasts an all-star cast of old pros with a collective career span of 94 years. This is relevant because Wild Hogs is a movie about middle age and the kind of life lessons people pick up as the clock ticks on. The film’s leads, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and William H. Macy, are all in the throws of middle age and should have learned by now to avoid stinkers like this. With almost 100 years of experience between them they are old enough to know better.
In this baby boomer fable four weekend warriors try desperately to cling to their youth. During the week they are average citizens plucked straight from central casting—a henpecked husband, a computer nerd, a dentist who craves the gravitas that comes along with the title doctor and an investor who looks like he’s on top of the world, when in reality he’s broke and about to be served with divorce papers by his model wife—but on the weekends they are The Wild Hogs, a bike gang complete with porcine insignias embroidered on their leather jackets by their wives. A better name might be The Mild Hogs.
Eager to shed the shackles of middle age the Hogs decide to hit the open road, leave Cincinnati, drive across America and dip their toes into the Pacific Ocean. Their Easy Rider dream soon becomes a nightmare when they happen across an honest-to-God biker bar. Stripped of their dignity by the down and dirty Del Fuegos, Woody (Travolta) seeks revenge and accidentally blows up the biker bar. On the run from the bikers they seek refuge in a small tourist town where there is the inevitable show down between the hooligans and the heroes.
There is the occasional laugh in Wild Hogs, but considering Brian Copeland, the pen behind My Name Is Earl and Arrested Development, wrote the script this should be sharper, funnier and less clichéd than it is. You can squeeze a titter out of an audience by showing an inappropriately naked middle-aged bum or by telling weak bladder jokes, but we’ve seen and heard all this before. The jokes are too easy, and rarely rise above the level of slapstick. Many movies have tread this same path, but only Albert Brook’s Lost in America manages to balance the humor with the pathos of middle age.
More disturbing than the shallow treatment given the main characters is the film’s blatant homophobia. In one running joke Travolta’s character repeatedly shudders at Macy’s familiar touch, even though they have been friends since childhood. Other scenes involving a gay motorcycle cop and an effete karaoke singer at a country fair qualify as gay bashing.
The cast tries valiantly to make the best of the material, managing the snappy dialogue like the pros they are, but aren’t convincing as long-time friends. The lack of chemistry sucks some of the fun from their scenes together. Ray Liotta hands in a nice turn as a sadistic biker, showing off his rarely used comedic skills.
Wild Hogs is a predictable story of middle age that is far less than the sum of its parts.