by RISHI AGRAWAL
Walt Becker, who directed the gross-out comedy Van Wilder, which was certainly gross but not very funny, now directs the feel-good comedy Wild Hogs, which is also not very funny and makes you feel kind of okay. The plot revolves around four middle-aged men from suburban Cincinnati (though the setting is generic enough that it could really be any city) who decide to go on a cross-country road trip on motorcycles, calling themselves the Wild Hogs. Eventually, then come across some real bikers and trouble ensues.
The Wild Hogs have underdeveloped personalities which can easily be summed up in a sentence. Doug (Tim Allen) is a dentist who has abandoned his wild younger days to become a family man, who struggles to win the respect of his pre-teen son. Woody (John Travolta) is undergoing a divorce from his supermodel wife and is having financial difficulties. Bobby (Martin Lawrence) is a plumber who is submissive to his wife. Finally, Dudley (William H. Macy) is a nervous computer programmer who is accident-prone and has trouble with women. Beyond these broad strokes, each of the Wild Hogs develops a personality to suit the jokes. If it is appropriate for the sake of humor to have one character be fearful or brave or careless, then the character does it
The movie has a kind of rubber-band reality which is popular in a lot of television sitcoms. Jokes pretty much last for only one scene and then do not have any lasting repercussions; everything reverts back to the status quo. In an early scene, while the Wild Hogs are preparing for the trip, they decide to throw away their cell phones. Though references are made to the missing cell phones, it is not a decision that has any real consequences, even though it could have led to some potential humor. Dudley also frequently crashes his motorcycle, only to have it miraculously repaired by the next scene.
In addition to Dudley’s crashes, the humor generally comes from physical gags. Woody gets attacked by a bird on the highway and Doug gets hit in the groin with a softball. It should be noted that all of these scenes appeared in the trailers for the film. I didn’t find any of them particularly amusing, but judging from the audience reaction, these were the funniest scenes in the film. Having the best parts of a film revealed in the trailer was an epidemic that plagued a lot of 1980s comedies, and it appears that the trend may have returned. Just as a fair warning, the gags do not continue beyond what you see in the trailers; the movie never ups the ante, so to speak. There are few extended jokes and most laughs do not continue for more than a moment.
Another running theme through the movie stems from homophobia. There are quite a few of these scenes in the film, when one character (usually Dudley) does something quasi-effeminate towards another character (usually Woody) and all the characters become uncomfortable. I’m usually okay with borderline offensive humor if it is actually funny, but in this case, it is not. Besides, it is the same joke every time.
The Del Fuegos, the biker gang that serves as the villains in the film are led by Jack (Ray Liotta), a bully who thinks that the Wild Hogs have no right to call themselves bikers. In Jack’s eyes, these men are posers. Liotta is very convincing as the head of a biker gang and it almost feels as though he is in a different movie. Just when we are fascinated watching Liotta’s commanding presence, the main actors have to stumble across the screen to ruin the moment. Unfortunately, by the time Liotta shows up, the film is already beyond salvation.
The film heads in expected directions, so nothing should come as a surprise, but I will still refrain from revealing the ending. I will note that perhaps the best scene in the movie comes while the end credits roll, involving the Del Fuegos. Perhaps they should have gotten their own movie.
1 1/2 stars