**1/2 out of *****
Comedy is the great leveler for me. In other words, I am willing to forgive even the most egregious of cinematic crimes (predicable plot, stereotypical characters, etc.) if a movie is funny.
“Wild Hogs” has its share of funny moments, but unfortunately these moments are too intermittent for me to give the movie a commendable review.
Hoping to capture the spirit of sophomoric comedies like “Old School,” “Wild Hogs” is about four middle-age suburban friends whose listless lives inspire them to take a week-long road trip on their “hogs” (that’s a motorcycle for all those unfamiliar with the lingo).
Each of these friends has a different reason for wanting to get away for a while.
Doug (Tim Allen) is too absorbed by his work as a dentist to have any fun.
Woody (a petulant John Travolta) has had his business go down the tubes.
Bobby (Martin Lawrence) wants to be a self-help writer, but he’s too henpecked by his aggressive wife to stand up for himself when she insists he return to his old job as a plumber.
And Dudley (William H. Macy) is a nerdy computer programmer who’s afraid of women and seems to have even less dexterity than an inebriate.
The first half of the film is actually pretty funny.
Macy, in particular, is absolutely hilarious as the supremely na’ve Dudley. His ability to deliver a line like, “Guys, this is poop so don’t eat it,” (while holding up a bag of his own feces) with such deadpan is almost enough to compensate for whatever flaws “Wild Hogs” might have.
But around the half-way point, the movie takes an unexpected left-turn, so to speak. While stopping at a biker bar for some libations, the boys inadvertently offend some hardcore bikers led by the violent and temperamental Jack (Ray Liotta), who forces the Wild Hogs out of the bar.
In revenge, Woody sneaks back and cut the gas lines on these bikers’ motorcycles, which accidentally triggers an explosion that destroys the bar.
From this point on, “Wild Hogs” becomes a kind of chase movie with the boys hiding out in the homely small town of Madrid, hoping to avoid the wrath of Jack and his gang.
The scenes in Madrid have their charm, but they also have more than a few eye-roll-inducing moments of sentimentality.
And the film’s end, where the wild hogs face off against Jack and his gang (who have a history of tormenting the good folks of Madrid) almost feels like a Western, with the Wild Hogs representing the outnumbered but intrepid few who are going to save the town from a merciless mob intent on upsetting the peace.
This last half of “Wild Hogs” simply doesn’t work, and it is these latter scenes that make the movie such a wildly inconsistent ride.
Movie reviewer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.