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Wild Hogs (03/07/2007)
By David Robinson

Wild Hogs combines the staples of the formulas for buddy flicks and road flicks to produce -a formula flick! Though sporadically funny, it offers few surprises and lapses at times into borderline tastelessness: homophobic jokes, peeing jokes, you get the idea. (No burping or farting jokes, but they would have fit right in.) The two bright spots are performances by William H. Macy and Ray Liotta, whose characters, though stereotypes, invigorate the comedy.

The title refers to a suburban Cincinnati motorbike club whose four members are all frustrated in some way. When their self-appointed leader, Woody (John Travolta), decides that what they need is a road trip to the Pacific Ocean, a way to assert their masculinity and freedom from domestic entanglements. Woody is in the throes of a divorce, himself, but he neglects to tell them, setting up another crucial withholding of information later. The others are in thrall various weaknesses. Computer geek Dudley (Macy) chokes up anytime he gets near a woman. Plumber and would-be author Bobby (Martin Lawrence) is henpecked by all the women in his household. And dentist Doug fears leaving his business and, worse, losing his son's respect.

As a gesture of defiance, they all throw away their cell phones, another not-so-good idea for these four non-Musketeers. They run afoul of a real biker gang, the Del Fuegos, in a real biker bar in the New Mexico desert. Gang leader Jack (Liotta) spots the Hogs as phonies as soon as they walk in the joint, humiliates them, and points them back toward Ohio. When Woody takes his revenge, the Big Showdown is set up.

You can probably figure out the results. Suffice it to say that they all discover their manhood in sundry ways on their way to the Pacific. But it takes a surprise appearance from the original Easy Rider, Captain America hisself, to get them there. While it wouldn't be fair to fully reveal this deus ex machina's identity, here's a hint: his father starred in a classic about a road trip to California, and his machine is a hog.

Director Walt Becker has some funs with the closing credits, wisely inserting a little parodic bit which would have been lamer than the ending he leaves in. The "PG-13" rating is mostly for crude humor, though I'd guess it'll look pretty familiar to most early adolescents. From the audience's enjoyment of this light summer comedy on a snowy March evening, I'd guess Wild Hogs will do some good business. 


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