Whenever an actor is having a dry spot in his career, with good parts coming less often, and not enough money coming in, there is always the trusty Hollywood kids' movie for them to fall back on. It tends to come most easily to comedians like Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, but anyone can do it if they're desperate enough, including the likes of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Sure they can make excuses - they're kids like it or some such - but there's no way John Travolta dressed up as a fat mother in Hairspray just for the privilege of doing so. Wild Hogs collects four actors with careers that are all in a bit of a slump and puts them in a silly largely kid-friendly road-movie chock full of slapstick antics and stupid behaviour. I can almost hear the cash registers going Ka-Ching!
Doug is a dentist, he has a loving wife and son but a mundane life largely limited by his cholesterol levels and health. Bobby has spent the last 10 years working on a book that he's never going to finish and is hen-pecked to hell by his wife, his two daughters and his live-in mother-in-law. Woody has lost everything: the mansion, the supermodel wife, and all of his investments, and Dudley, well, what can I say? Dudley is just an accident waiting to happen, whether it involves women, or just signposts. What unites these four friends is a burning desire to break free of it all, significantly change their lives before it's too late and their middle age turns into old age. That and the fact that they are all would-be bikers, who get together at weekends and pretend to be 'the Wild Hogs'. But when Woody suggests that they do it for real - actually take to the road and ride like the wind all the way down to the coast - it may just be what they all need.
Of course, things don't go as planned, their rebellious idea to ditch all their mobile phones being a bad start, a run-in with an obsessive motorcycle cop not helping, and - eventually - an encounter with a real biker gang proving to truly test their mettle. Soon they find themselves protecting a small town from the malicious, destructive biker gang, all the while trying to truly rediscover themselves.
What can I say? I was truly hoping this would be more Space Cowboys than Pink Panther remake. I enjoyed Space Cowboys, liked to see some older legends team up for a bit of self-depreciating humour and dramatic antics, and would have loved Wild Hogs to be the same sort of things. Of course, I knew it wouldn't be, but I liked the actors involved and thought that they might be able to pull off something vaguely engaging. The quartet are made up of some relatively big names after all - I thought Tim Allen was pretty funny in Galaxy Quest, Martin Lawrence has never really managed to top the enjoyable Bad Boys movies, William H. Macy has had some great, really quirky roles in movies like The Cooler and Fargo, and we can't forget John Travolta's successful comeback with the likes of Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty and even Face/Off. Surely it could have worked?
But Hollywood chose to roll them all up into leathers and stick them on Harleys, have them ride around for almost half of the runtime of a thankfully fairly short movie and get them to camp it up to the max in the remaining half. Ka-Ching. Ray Liotta drops in to provide his classic psycho performance, but thankfully manages to pull it off (in the same way that DeNiro parodied his straight-man roles in Meet the Parents) without ruining the effect of his last few decent comeback performances, and the token ladies are brought to life by the serious yummy mummies Marisa 'My Cousin Vinny' Tomei and Jill 'Law and Order' Hennessey, who have both been seriously underappreciated and underrated over the years. And then there's Scrubs' crazy John C. McGinley, who pops up in a role that is odd even for him. It's tough to see so many recognisable faces in a movie which makes you often want to cringe more than laugh, and has more tedious moments than entertaining ones.
Wild Hogs is the epitome of harmless. It's not even harmless fun, it's just harmless, which is one step away from vapid and insipid. The movie has nothing to good to offer that was not suitably summed up in the trailer, but still manages to pass itself off as an adequate time waster if you have absolutely nothing to do. It's unlikely to have you turning it off, but it may see you falling asleep whilst watching it, but there are quite a few jokes - and if this kind of truly silly humour works for you then I guess you could do a lot worse. Or at the very least a little worse.
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