Road movies have been around for a very long time. More often than not, the road movie is a comedy. There are exceptions, of course, but on the whole, I am betting most road movies are comedies. For me, I have never been a big fan of road movies. I don’t exactly know why, but they just sort of bore me. I have never been a fan of “Easy Rider” as an example.
There is also a formula in Hollywood that seems to think if you combine a bunch of celebrities, each of them at a slightly different level of celebrity, and put them in the same movie, whacky things are just going to happen. Of course, having whacky things happen and having things that are actually funny happen are too different things. Whacky does not necessarily mean funny. However, whacky done right can be hilarious.
There are very few people who can do whacky anymore. The ZAZ combination that brought comedy classics like “Airplan!” and “Top Secret” did whacky just about better than anyone. There was a time when Mel Brooks could do whacky better than anyone. Comedic giants like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers were all experts in whacky. These days, the Farrelly brothers can do whacky pretty well.
So, what can be said of the movie “Wild Hogs?” It is a movie that attempts to ring humor out of not just one or two guys going through mid-life crises, but four of them. John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and Tim Allen are a bunch of guys who all have problems in their life. Allen is a dentist that no one takes seriously, not even his young son. Travolta is a rich guy going through a divorce from his super-model wife and who has lost his money. Martin Lawrence is a plumber who is hen-pecked nearly to death by his wife. William H. Macy is a four-time loser who cannot get a girl.
Somehow all of these guys have managed to become friends. They all own motorcycles. They all have leather outfits. They also all wear patches on their backs that say “Wild Hogs” because Tim Allen’s wife was willing to sew the patches to their jackets.
It is Travolta’s character who suggests that what everyone really needs is a road trip. All four of them live in Cincinnati and they are going to ride their cycles to the west coast. Exactly what they are going to do once they get there is not entirely clear. In fact, it isn’t even entirely clear when the movie is over.
Along the way they are going to run into an actual biker gang run by a guy named Jack who is played by Ray Liotta. Whatever the rest of the movie may offer, I have to say I found Liotta to be pretty funny at times. Yes, he is playing the villain, but there are some really great comedic moments with him, particularly in a bit that runs over the closing credits. He should try comedies a bit more.
What about the rest of the movie? Well, “Wild Hogs” is a relatively harmless movie, I guess. The problem is, it can’t decide just how whacky it wants to be. Why, exactly, do we need the scene where Travolta ends up with a crow in his face? There seems to be no real reason for it.
It is a movie that is not particularly offensive. There are not ridiculous swear words or overt sex. There isn’t even any real-looking violence. It is very standard, middle-of-the-road vanilla fare. In short, it’s probably a DVD you should rent or perhaps take the time to catch on cable television at some point.
If there are three things I could recommend about this movie I could sum them up so: William H. Macy. I have been a fan of Mr. Macy for some time now and this movie just proves to me that he can take anything and make it more appealing. His character of Dudley is the best thing about the entire movie. His romance with a diner owner played by Marisa Tomei is also rather sweet.
The problem is that the movie wants to be a road movie, a buddy picture, a whacky comedy and a movie about how all of these middle-aged men come to terms with their lives and their situations. In short, it’s some kind of middle-aged coming-of-age movie. On that score, it doesn’t entirely succeed.
If the movie had decided, up front, to go one way or the other, maybe it would have worked. Had it been totally whacky and silly like a Farrelly brother’s movie, maybe it would have worked. Had it been something a little more sincere, maybe it would have worked better. In the end, you have a safe movie, a relatively entertaining movie, but a movie that certainly doesn’t break any new ground and certainly not a movie that anyone will probably remember twenty-four hours after viewing it.