No 'Hog' heaven for Harley's angels

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

The subculture of weekend warrior bikers is such rich comic material that the ineptitude of "Wild Hogs" is doubly offensive. After all, it's not often that a subject this good comes along. The whole time I was watching "Wild Hogs" I kept putting together in my mind the movie I wanted to see. Not a good sign.

It's doubtful this script would have gotten the go-ahead without the commitment from John Travolta, William H. Macy, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence. They play suburban friends from Cincinnati who rev up their Harleys on weekends in order to spice up their blah lives. Then they make the decision to go whole hog, as it were, and hit the road on a cross-country motorcycle trip.

Doug (Allen) is a mealy-mouthed dentist whose wife and son are all over him to eat healthily. Henpecked Bobby (Lawrence) is taking a break from his plumbing job to become a writer – unsuccessfully. Woody (Travolta) is a businessman with a trophy wife; unbeknownst to his friends, the business is bust and his wife has split. Dudley (Macy) is a computer-geek bachelor whose life is one big pratfall.

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At first it's amusing that this quartet would want to slap on the leather jackets and skull bandanas and do the "Easy Rider" thing. But since none of these characters resemble anything more than a kiddie cartoon adult, the fun fades fast. When Albert Brooks left his cushy job and took to the open road with his wife in "Lost in America," it was funny because his anxieties were so palpable and his screwed-up ambitions so human.

In "Wild Hogs," director Walt Becker ("National Lampoon's Van Wilder") and screenwriter Brad Copeland (TV's "My Name Is Earl") can't sustain the jokes. Very soon the movie devolves into a lampoon of "The Wild One" as the buddies cross paths with the scurvy Del Fuego biker gang. Ray Liotta plays their leader, and his idea of being a bad guy is to bug his eyes and shout a lot. Come to think of it, just about everybody in the cast does the same.

Travolta can be a very funny performer, but not here. Ditto Tim Allen. I've never cared for Martin Lawrence so his unfunniness in "Wild Hogs" bothered me less. As for poor William H. Macy, the filmmakers have him banging into road signs and doing back flips into the underbrush. Even Chevy Chase wouldn't be caught dead doing this stuff. As Dudley's love interest, Marisa Tomei has so little to work with that she might as well be a stand-in. You could see her thinking, "For this I won an Oscar?" Grade: F

Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and some violence.

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