I have to admit to my audience of loyal readers that I’m really at a loss here. Weeks ago I was at a Super Bowl party where invitees chuckled during the ads for this film. A trusted colleague had admitted the same upon first seeing the trailers for this despite a complete lack of faith in the parties involved. As a great “sweetie pie” of Miss Oprah Winfrey, Mr. Travolta and the entire cast was invited onto her show – something usually reserved for socially conscious material the Queen of Talk can hypnotize her viewers into seeing. Sneak previews have been conducted for the public. Studio confidence is high. I repeat, confidence IS high. And yet, I would not have been surprised if our press screening in Chicago would have been the first time a studio rep cutoff the movie midway through and recommended to the studio that they don’t show it anymore.The premise is a mash-up of elements from the infinitely better City Slickers and Lost In America. Four middle-aged men going through individual crises decide to extend their weekend dress-ups into a road trip and rediscover their manhood. Doug (Tim Allen) is a dentist whose son won’t play ball with him and is denied anything resembling a meal at home. Woody’s (John Travolta) supermodel wife has left him and he's broke. Bobby (Martin Lawrence) cleans out toilets to supplement his writing and has a wife so shrewish it’s amazing she wasn’t played by Regina King. Dudley (William H. Macy) is a computer geek who has trouble talking to women and is borderline homosexual.
After Doug’s wife gives him almost the exact same “this is what you need” speech that Patricia Wettig gave Billy Crystal, the four head off sans cell phones for the open road. Their vignettes consist of a series of decidedly un-manly things like spooning and swimming naked together before the story decides to ditch various humorous adventures in favor of a plot straight out of Three Amigos. They offend a group of serious bikers led by Ray Liotta and wind up out of gas in a town that seems to consist of nothing but a diner and a carnival. It will be up to the Wild Hogs to protect their newfound friends (including Marisa Tomei, bringing the number of Oscar nominees on display to four) from the Del Fuegos and somehow discover the dignity they couldn’t possibly achieve by appearing in this film.
To understand the depths of laughlessness that Wild Hogs achieves, I utilized the 90-some minutes to better advantage by jotting down and tallying the various categories of jokes on display.
Crashes = 7 Gay Jokes = 6 Poop = 4 Balls/Nuts = 2 Fire Destruction = 2 Smell = 2 Pee = 1 Rape = 1 Kyle Gass as an effeminate carnival singer = 3 Chased by a bull and being called a “Jackass” (hardy har) = 1
And two instances where characters slowly come to regret things they have put in their mouth. Now director Walt Becker may not have regretted sucking off whatever studio exec he had to get work as a helmer, but coming off National Lampoon’s Van Wilder (which now actually looks like Animal House by comparison), there’s not much hope anyway. The more shocking contribution comes from screenwriter Brad Copeland, who may be making his feature debut here, but has cut his teeth on two of the more original sitcoms to hit the networks in years (Arrested Development & My Name Is Earl). Save for the film’s one sole laugh courtesy of Stephen Tobolowsky (as the town sheriff describing his weapons training), noticeably absent from the above list is any mention of an actual written punchline.Not that someone calling Allen’s character, Buzz, to Travolta’s Woody would have been the penultimate bit of comic irony, but at least it would have proven someone was trying to have a little fun with the material. Any film that steals jokes from Ishtar and has the audience agreeing with the biker gang’s assessment of the heroes has to be working at cross purposes. To seal the deal of its anti-message, a celebrity cameo towards the end is enough to make Dennis Hopper strap a bomb to any projector making more than one revolution of playing this or Ghost Rider. Ben Rothlesberger and Jay Williams might have had something to add as a consultant to the nutty cycle spills, but I can imagine Albert Brooks sitting in a theater watching this garbage and praying that it actually ends like Easy Rider.