Even though it’s not my place to tell people what they should and should not watch, I feel that I am within my rights to strongly urge that a film never be viewed by anyone. There are things in this world that must be considered absolutes, like “murder is wrong,” and “don’t eat poop.” I can say definitively that Wild Hogs belongs in that category. It is not just a badly-written, badly-acted, badly-made comedy, it is bad. Bad like the Devil is bad. This opinion doesn’t just arise from the fact that Wild Hogs is about as funny as a burning clown, or more reactionary than the director’s cut of Birth of a Nation. A movie can be crappy, and still barely justify its own existence. This one, however, is like mustard gas. It can do nothing but harm.
The story focuses on four male characters, each representing a different way to be middle-aged. Doug (Tim Allen) is a married father whose son doesn’t respect him because he is a lame-ass dentist. Bobby (Martin Lawrence) is also married with kids, but he is unemployed and therefore hen-pecked by his businesswoman wife (Tichina Arnold). Dudley (William H. Macy) is a nerdy computer programmer who is single and afraid to talk to women, and Woody (John Travolta) is a successful something whose wife has recently left him and drained his finances. Each week, the four guys leave their woefully underdeveloped households and meet up to ride their motorcycles down to the local watering hole. They’ve gone so far as to sew biker gang insignias on themselves, calling their group the “Wild Hogs.”
One thing you’ll notice as the primary cast assembles is that each of the leads, at one point in their careers, did something very wrong. Allen made some bad movies and apparently had his face treated with lye, Lawrence smoked crack on the highway, and Travolta is a creepy Scientologist. Whatever the studio has on William H. Macy was enough to get him into this project, so I’ll just assume he is a Nazi war criminal hiding under an assumed name. Part of the supposed excitement this movie generates is due to its “star power,” but that doesn’t seem to make any sense.
The guys take their choppers out one evening and begin to talk about their troubles. Back in college, it seems, these dudes were totally cool, but now that they’re older, they have too many icky responsibilities. I knew a guy who felt that way. His name was Raymond. Anyway, Woody decides not to tell the boys about his money problems, but instead suggests a therapeutic road trip that could cure them all and get them in touch with their salad days. A trip with no destinations, no rules, and most importantly, no wives. His buddies are reluctant at first, but after they find out that a neighbor their age just up and croaked, they all figure at once that it’s time to live it up. With the entire conceit of the film used up in ten minutes, there’s nothing left but the road. Literally, barely anything else happens with the families or the situations the guys leave behind. Of course, Dudley has to meet a girl, and Bobby’s wife shows up at the end to be mad at him, but that’s it.
The first thirty minutes of the trip are less than adventurous, but do happen to feature some of the worst examples of institutional homophobia I’ve ever witnessed in modern film. Of course, there are the standard jokes about skinny-dipping in a pond and sleeping in tents together, but that is just the tip of it all. Real, unprovoked swipes are taken at homosexuals, and some honest hatred leaks out. No attempt is made to mask a total lack of perspective on gay society, and it leaves one wondering if the director was one of those weird home-schooled kids whose parents told him that the gays were secretly building a standing army. At first, it’s the awkward Dudley who is the brunt of innuendo, but he is soon supplanted by a lip-licking traffic cop (John C. McGinley) who shows up at the guys’ campsite just to coax them into an orgy. Of course they run off terrified, leaving the insatiable cop to sniff their bike seats and rub himself, which no real gay man would ever do.
Further down the line, they meet up with the cop again, who is this time completely naked. He jumps in a lake with the gang, who have themselves just been the butt of a gay joke, and attempts to play “Marco Polo,” while blindly grasping for some underwater penises. As we scan the looks on our heroes’ faces, we are meant to laugh at the horror they must be experiencing. I mean, who wants one of those types after them, right? This truly seems to be the message, even if the filmmakers are pretending to wink about it. A running gag with a member of a rival bike gang that “accidentally” says fruity stuff, and a series of pop-song karaoke performances by Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass (including “Don’t Cha”) do nothing but reaffirm the idea that this film was transcripted from Jerry Falwell’s dream book.
The homophobia in Wild Hogs is so tail-and-pitchfork evil that it actually leads one to think: “at least it isn’t racist.” Indeed, the lack of jokes directed at Martin Lawrence’s blackness is the film’s high point. Oddly, he is played as a straight man (not a pun), and encounters no defamation of any kind. All the pratfalls that a black actor would have endured in a ‘90s version of this film are given to Macy’s character. However, this small victory amounts to little more than quickly untying the shoelaces of the guy who is stabbing you to death.
The remaining plot of the film is a magnificent ode to Disneyana vapidness. The over-the-hill gang hits up a biker bar to cool off, and gets booted out by the “real” bikers, the Del Fuegos, led by needlessly upset rider Jack (Ray Liotta). In retaliation, Woody sneaks back and accidentally blows up their bar. Without telling the others what happened, he has them skip a gas station so they can get out of dodge, and they end up stuck in Madrid, a town that is chronically afraid of the Del Fuegos. Their unknowing hideout gives them time to become town heroes, and for Dudley to court a hot waitress (Marisa Tomei) who falls in love with him in a few hours. The Del Fuegos track the Wild Hogs to Madrid for a final showdown, and everything about it is godawful.
While I am most disgusted by the rampant (and apparently still popular) gay-bashing, I can easily say that everything about Wild Hogs is total shit. For a road movie, the characters spend way too much time in the same place. The situations that lead the four guys to take the trip are unoriginal and hardly explored. Doug’s wife and son are cardboard cutouts, and Bobby’s wife is an insult to women. We never meet Woody’s ex or even find out what he does for a living. Dudley is an 80s-style nerd until the very end, when he suddenly isn’t. Even Jack the Del Fuego is an uninformed stereotype that has no basis for the things he does. Whenever something in a scene is meant to be funny, like Dudley hitting a realtor sign or the guys’ gripes about getting old, it’s like a dinner at Olive Garden: clearly reheated and made from a bad recipe to begin with. The question is, why are we still eating there when people are making real food?
The DVD for Wild Hogs is presented in Widescreen and features Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and French/Spanish language tracks. I don’t see these any of these specs as being reasons to buy it. As I have attempted to establish, simply picking this disc up from off a store shelf may cause the mark of the beast to be indelibly branded onto your skin, thus conscripting you to battle against the forces of Heaven. Trust me, man, it’s not worth it.
The bonus features section looks surprisingly normal, which is exactly what the neighbors said about BTK. It’s got all the goodies a fan of the movie would want, like outtakes, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending. The deleted stuff is hardly anything, and the outtakes are only significant because you wonder how these guys can laugh while they’re doing this. The alternate ending is the focal point here, because unbelievably, it brings John C. McGinley’s denigrating cop character back again. Optional commentary on this scene, provided by director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland (whose voice patterns I studied like an FBI profiler), suggests that the only reason why this ending is not used in the final cut is because it “didn’t feel resolved.” They go on to say that McGinley’s portrayal is “hysterical” and that he “nailed it.” Of course, neither man mentions the years of fraternity peer pressure that led them to believe such a thing.
Speaking of Becker and Copeland, the two of them pop up to do a commentary track for the film. I can’t speak for the entirety of this track, because I ravenously fast-forwarded to the scenes I found particularly sickening and listened to what the two could possibly say to explain themselves. It turns out they don’t even see the problem enough to mention it. Instead, they gloss over some minor staging details and giggle lightly at the actors’ ad-libbed facial expressions (as if that’s something). This is what I mean by “institutional” homophobia. Two total dicks sitting in a room, talking costume-fitting while a character punches a guy for making a vaguely homosexual comment. It hardly registers that they are degrading an entire group of people.
The behind-the-scenes featurette, entitled “Bikes, Brawls, and Burning Bars: The Making of Wild Hogs” is a fluff piece that seems to only concern itself with the actors learning to ride bikes and their improvisation skills. Walt Becker, that smug fuck, is interviewed and looks exactly like one of those uniformed Russians that Stalin hired to convince foreign dignitaries he wasn’t torturing anyone. For the rest of my life, I will despise him. Another featurette tacked on, with the condescending title “How To Get Your Wife To Let You Buy A Motorcycle” is just a bloated ad for Harley-Davidsons. The business plan is simple: make guys feel insecure and gay, then make them buy a chopper to spite their wives.
In a review, all I can really do is give my honest, sincere opinion, and vow to anyone reading that I am not exaggerating. Viewing Wild Hogs is like eating mercury. It’s harmful going down, and really harmful later on. If Disney wasn’t a heartless corporation that could actually make people eat mercury, this film wouldn’t be nearly as popular. With themes like gay panic and middle age, actors like Black Knight and Battlefield Earth Guy, and jokes akin to: “My wife says I’m not allowed to have a dick,” it seems to have no discernable appeal. So why don't we hold on to our souls for a little while longer, people? At least until we can get a better price.
Reviewed By: Daniel Solomon
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