Wild Hogs Review
By Shawn McKenzie 03/11/2007
Dr. Doug Madsen (Tim Allen) is a Cincinnati dentist with a thriving practice, but he is unsatisfied with his life. He is embarrassed that he is only a dentist (he purposely makes others think that his doctor status is in any other field rather than dentistry), his wife Kelly (Jill Hennessy) has put him on a restrictive diet, and his son Billy (Dominic Janes) would rather play ball with a friend and that friend’s father than with him. After eating an entire stick of butter (ewww), which lands him in the hospital, his doctor (“Loveline’s” Dr. Drew Pinsky) tells Doug that he has had an anxiety attack. Kelly convinces him to take his weekend motorcycle “biker gang,” the Wild Hogs, on a weeklong cross-country biking trip to help him take stock of his life and come back home with a fresh new perspective. In fact, all four Wild Hogs could use the week to get away from their regular lives. Woody Stevens (John Travolta) is a real estate developer whose swimsuit supermodel wife Claudia is divorcing him. He has also found out from his accountant (“Barney Miller’s” Steve Landesberg) that she has sucked him dry financially, and so he doesn’t know what to do. He is the one who originally proposed the trip, since he has nothing else to lose. Bobby Davis (Martin Lawrence) is a plumber, but he hates the job, and he would rather concentrate on the how-to book that he has been writing. Unfortunately, his shrew of a wife Karen (Tichina Arnold) and ungrateful kids, Haley (Drew Sidora) and Claire (Cymfenee), just want him to be the paycheck. Dudley Frank (William H. Macy) is a shy single computer programmer who can’t seem to talk to beautiful women (he’s also the only Wild Hog who still hasn’t mastered the “fist bump” greeting while riding his bike, resulting in crashing into things.) After Woody makes the proposal, the others are a little hesitant at first, since they all think that they couldn’t take a week off for a vacation, but they do it anyway (especially after Doug’s hospital trip.) Woody also foolishly convinces them to destroy their cell phones as a symbol of their newfound freedom (Bobby certainly doesn’t mind doing it, because he has decided to tell Karen that he is in a plumbing convention in Utah rather than the truth.) Their troubles start up quickly though. Doug accidentally burns down their tent with a flaming marshmallow and they get embarrassed in front of a camping family while swimming in a pond naked. If that was bad enough, they tick off the patrons of a biker bar owned by Damien Blade (Peter Fonda, Easy Rider), including Del Fuegos motorcycle gang leader Jack (Ray Liotta) and his henchmen Murdock (“Lost’s” M.C. Gainey), Red (comedian Kevin Durand, a.k.a. Tree), and Tiny (martial artist Arnold Chon.) Jack tricks Dudley into trading his bike for a pile of junk, so Woody tries to get Dudley’s bike back. He cuts the fuel line to all of the Del Fuegos’ bikes so that they won’t follow them when he makes his getaway. He tells the others that he got the bike back through threatening legal reprisal. Alas, the gasoline from the bikes pools up and accidentally blows up the biker bar (Woody notices the explosion and realizes his mistake, but he doesn’t tell the others about his faux pas.) They cross a desert and manage to arrive in a small town in New Mexico called Madrid where they meet Maggie (Marisa Tomei), the owner of the local diner (and Dudley’s immediate love interest.) Once the local sheriff Charley (Stephen Tobolowsky) and twin brother deputies Earl and Buck Dooble (Jason and Randy Sklar) realize that the Wild Hogs are not the Del Fuegos (Jack’s gang has been terrorizing the town for years), they welcome the newcomers with open arms. Meanwhile, Jack and the other bikers head towards the town to get revenge, and the Madrid police department are helpless, since they have no guns.
While it’s getting pretty bad reviews by most other critics (it’s receiving a 18% Rotten rating from Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer as of this writing), Wild Hogs isn’t a bad movie. In fact, I consider it one of the funnier movies of 2007 so far.
It seems that most of them heap all of their scorn on the director, Walt Becker. In 2002, his directorial debut, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, became a minor hit (spawning last year’s not-as-good sequel)…and it became the target of overwhelming critical hatred. I personally didn’t think it was that bad (mainly because of the talents of lead Ryan Reynolds), but now they seem to think that Becker is ruining the careers of the four leads in this movie. I have a feeling that…like Van Wilder before it…it will have the last laugh at the box office.
Why do I heap such praise on the movie when others don’t? It’s simply because the movie is consistently funny throughout. While it’s another “life lesson” comedy, it never stops without the laughs. In fact, my mother (who ironically saw the movie in that national preview screening on February 24 before I saw my screening of it two days later) had feared that the movie’s trailer contained its only laughs, but she was delighted to find out that the entire movie was just as funny as the trailer.
The reason the movie is so humorous is its four leads. Allen and Lawrence aren’t bad in their parts (it’s good to see Allen play another adult role again after being pigeonholed in family roles), but it’s Travolta and Macy that shine. Travolta seems like he is having tons of fun playing the role. Macy is the highlight of the movie as the shy computer nerd. He had more standout scenes than the others did.
The supporting actors aren’t bad either. I love to see Liotta play the bad guy, and he gets to show off the comedic version of it this time. Tomei doesn’t really stand out (I wonder if she will ever get to play another role again like her Oscar-winning role in 2002’s My Cousin Vinny), but she does have some chemistry with Macy. The wives, Hennessy and Arnold, aren’t in it very long, but they do a good job. Hennessy is mainly a pretty face (she doesn’t show off any of her “Crossing Jordan” acting) and Arnold is doing the same character that she does in the CW’s “Everybody Hates Chris” (or even her old show with Lawrence…FOX’s “Martin”), but they entertain.
I also liked the cameos (aside the ones listed above in the Synopsis, such as Fonda, Pinsky, and Landesberg.) John C. McGinley appears a couple of times as a gay highway patrolman, which shows that he can play something other than hothead senior attending physician Dr. Perry Cox from NBC’s “Scrubs.” Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass appears as a singer (natch) in Madrid of songs like Ginuwine’s “Pony,” the Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” and Exile’s “Kiss You All Over.” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’s” Ty Pennington makes a funny cameo as himself over the closing credits (which makes him more entertaining than he is on his hit ABC show.) Finally, both Paul Teutul Sr. and Jr. from TLC’s hit reality series “American Chopper” show up as a couple of bikers at the beginning of the movie who seem threatening at first, but turn out to be harmless.
The soundtrack is packed with appropriate motorcycle-themed music. It ranges from classics, like Foghat’s “Slow Ride” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” to the more contemporary songs, like “Get Me Outta Here” by Jet and “Thunder Kiss ’65” by White Zombie. In fact, my only minor gripe with the movie is that Steppenwolf’s 1968 biker anthem “Born to Be Wild” wasn’t played anywhere in it. It’s ironic, since Easy Rider’s Fonda is in it!
Maybe the other critics didn’t like Wild Hogs because the overall theme was about having a midlife crisis. Since most critics are in their 40’s to 60’s, they may have thought that the movie was mocking them. I can guarantee you that regular people will be wheeling their way to the theater to see it many times!
SEE THIS MOVIE!
Catch this movie at the theater if you can...
Wait until it comes out on video...
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Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!