Wild Hogs (2007)

(On DVD, March 2008) There’s nothing like being stuck on a guided tour bus for hours with proud redneck drivers and force-fed DVDs to make you appreciate the finer points of movies you wouldn’t pay to see. But the horrible truth about Wild Hogs is that it made me smile. Despite the generic blandness of Tim Allen, the bloated arrogance of John Travolta, the grating awfulness of Martin Lawrence and the pitiful indignity of William H. Macy (who deserves better), Wild Hogs is cookie-cutter lowest-denominator comedy and it still works. There isn’t much to say about the plot (four guys looking for adventure go on a motorcycle trip to the west coast) except for how it’s engineered to frustrate the “road trip” aspect almost from the get-go in order to provide a consistent plot. It’s the grown-up equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons, with the low-brow middle-aged slapstick and the caricatured opponents, although with the teenage attractions of slap-dash romance, dull homophobic jokes and fear of strong adult women. Everyone and everything is wasted here, including Ray Liotta and especially Marisa Tomei. (Peter Fonda’s cameo being the biggest wasted moment.) Yet it’s tough to actually stop watching: it’s far from being as awful as the trailer suggested, and it’s possible to see here the glimmer of a much better film buried under the star prancing and sub-literate plotting: something about middle-aged anxieties, the wasted allure of pretend lifestyles and how it’s never too late to grow up. But growing up isn’t something that particularly interests either the characters or the audiences of this film, and so Wild Hogs remains painfully limited even if it succeeds on purely mechanical craft.

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