As the lights came on in the theater, I sat speechless and alone. No, I had not just seen the maniacally inspired performance of Forrest Whittaker in The Last King of Scotland, or even the redundant performance of Denzel Washington in the appropriately redundant film Déjà Vu. I hadn’t even see Martin Lawrence try to be funny like he was in Big Momma’s House. Instead, I had been made speechless and almost brought to tears by Wild Hogs. The only redeeming feature of the film was that I didn’t have to pay for it, unlike whatever poor souls who will inevitably flock to see this film.
Come on, the names Tim Allen and John Travolta on the marquee should be enough of a warning to stay away, especially if the names William H. Macy and Martin Lawrence join them. Wild Hogs succeeds more than any other film so far this year in hitting every single male bonding film cliché, right down to the masculine characters who turn out to be gay and the menacing villains who turn out to be friendly.
For those of you fortunate enough to have never heard of this film, it is essentially City Slickers, but instead of a decent script about middle-aged men pretending to be cowboys, it has a horrendously unoriginal script with middle-aged to old men trying to relive their glory days. Unlike City Slickers, this film lacks character, charisma, energy, or even a good fart joke.
Wild Hogs begins when Tim Allen, a dentist, meets up with other similarly bored mid-life career men such as Lawrence, a writer; Travolta, a stock trader; and Macy, a code hacker. The four men meet up through a series of not very funny and unfortunate events. After a night of heavy drinking, they decide to go on a road trip to reassure themselves of their collective manhood, which had been challenged when tough biker types walked into the bar and emasculated our heroes by their sheer masculinity.
This leads to a series of predictable scenes in which the wealthy Travolta buys a BMW instead of a Harley, Allen falls off his bike on his first try (he’s far from his days as the Tool Man), and a few black jokes are made at Lawrence’s expense. From there the plot, if it can even be called a plot, moves along at the pace of a Harley running on only one cylinder. Along comes an evil biker gang which the middle-aged gang has to fight, and then a friendlier gang of older, wiser, and apparently gayer bikers show them the ropes. The films portrays a gay state trooper and a masculine lounge singer who surprisingly hits a great falsetto.
The predictability of this plot continues until the big showdown against the bad gang, and we find out they just wanted an Extreme Makeover for their gang’s hideaway. In this way, the Disney-produced movie serves as an advertisement for the ABC Makeover show on the Disney-owned channel. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda, of Easy Rider fame, also the inventors of the chopper road movie, would cringe if they saw this film—that is, if they hadn’t already been given generous checks to make obvious cameos in Wild Hogs. All in all, when the credits rolled while the hogs rode off in their final blaze of mediocrity, I knew this group of middle-aged, Hell’s Angels--–wannabes was, as Steppenwolf might sing, “BOOORN TO BE LAAAAME!”