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It seems like a good idea: Four middle-aged actors, three of whom are on the downside of their careers, in a movie about men getting older and fighting against it by trying to recapture their youth. Wild Hogs could have been First Wives Club for dudes, instead it’s just another wacky, mediocre comedy with a better than average cast. Oh well. If you’re a middle-aged biker, you’re probably going to love it.
Doug (Tim Allen), Woody (John Travolta), Bobby (Martin Lawrence), and Dudley (William H. Macy) are a group of suburban biker wannabees. On the weekends they hop on their shiny, barely ridden motorcycles and cruise to a friendly restaurant to escape their otherwise mundane lives. Except their weekend hangouts are nearly as mundane as whatever they have going on at home. They wear leather jackets with a patch on the back, but only because Doug’s wife made them and they didn’t want to make her feel bad. They aren’t real bikers, just fat embarrassing fathers, hen-pecked husbands, and computer nerds with nothing better to do.
All four friends seem to be hitting a life low point at the same time, and so the decide to try being bikers for real. Woody talks them into a cross country ride, where they’ll rediscover the freedom they’ve given up in getting older on the open rode. At least in theory. In practice they end up in standard comedy of errors. Wild Hogs breaks down into a group of individual scenes which all follow pretty much the same formula. Travolta, Allen, and Lawrence talk about or do something biker related, and then William H. Macy says or does something funny. It happens over and over again throughout the movie, and the only time the script breaks from that rigid format is when Macy wanders off by himself to leave the others without their comedy relief. Then the baton passes to Lawrence, who postures and flails around doing his overconfidence gag.
So the story is predictable and overly structured, but the cast is good enough to find decent performances between the movie’s rigid lines. Well, three out of the four leads are good anyway. Travolta is more of a train wreck than anything. The guy has no business doing comedy. When he’s attempted it before, he usually plays the straight man. When asked to be funny in Wild Hogs, he seems to interpret that as bizarre facial contortions and mugging for the camera. Compelled to participate in getting laughs rather than just standing in the middle of a maelstrom while the comedy goes on around him, Travolta seems totally lost.
But Allen is easygoing and comfortable to watch and Martin Lawrence fits right in with the formula. William H. Macy, usually a dramatic actor, seems to be having a blast using his sad sack persona on a light-hearted, silly character. Brad Copeland’s script may be amateurish but those three lift it to the level of mediocre comedy in spite of it. It’s hard to hate it, trashing the film would be kind of like kicking a puppy in the head. Odds are, you’ll enjoy Wild Hogs. You might even laugh along with it, but the next day you won’t remember anything about it.