Wild Hogs is a pretty simple film for the most part. You have four guys who, for their own reasons, are finding their daily lives have gotten away from them. Their mid-life crises lead them to venture together on a cross country motorbike journey filled with enough peril to make them forget their ordinary lives and live the adventure of their dreams. The film has the standard sight gags that pretty much carry the first half of the film. Macy’s character has a rather amusing computer glitch in a Wi-Fi cafe. A lot of these jokes, often dealing with a gay cop who thinks the four are a pretty hot and tempting, get carried too far and get stale rather quickly. I could certainly do without the naked butt shots myself. The film actually starts to get interesting once the Hogs begin to interact with a real bike gang led by Ray Liotta. The ending reaches quite a bit to deliver the standard feel-good climax that usually requires a pretty hefty shot of insulin to bring the sweetness down to a tolerable level.
On the surface it would seem an odd choice to put this particular group of guys together in the same film. Each of the stars of Wild Hogs has established, for better or worse, their own brand of comedy through a rather large number of films.
Tim Allen’s films are usually funny, but there’s always got to be a gimmick attached, and he’s rarely outstanding without one. Galaxy Quest is probably his best work, and it certainly fits the gimmick mold. He might best be known, outside of Home Improvement, for the pretty lame Santa Clause films, which once again fill the standard Tim Allen formula.
Martin Lawrence has carved out a niche for himself in the street smart character you find in the Bad Boys and Big Momma’s House films he seems more comfortable doing. It’s pretty much the same thing we’ve been getting from his stand-up for a decade or so. He’s also usually better teamed up with an opposite personality in the buddy cop genre.
John Travolta cut his teeth in television comedy as Vinnie Barbarino from the 70’s sit-com Welcome Back Kotter. Unlike other young sit-com stars, he quickly moved to establish himself as a more serious actor and was an extremely hot name after Saturday Night Fever killed the 70’s music scene forever. Shortly after a couple of musically challenged hits, he pretty much disappeared for about ten years, but has spent the last 20 years doing mostly serious attempts. Wild Hogs proves he might wish to consider returning to his comedic roots, as he is surprisingly the funniest member of the group. He finally let his hair down, even if his style looks like something Bela Lugosi created for Dracula. He appeared the most at ease in the film, something he has not been known for as of late.
William H. Macy is likely the most versatile of the group. This often overlooked actor appears to fit in just about anywhere he finds himself. His range has taken him from a nice role in an otherwise lame Jurassic Park III to the rather offbeat Fargo and now the slapstick member of the Wild Hogs foursome. I really didn’t care much for the character he played here, but I must admit that he made it more interesting than it must have appeared in the script.
Still, it is the four that pretty much make or break the film. They often pull off the impossible, making it appear, if just for a second at a time, that these guys would actually be hanging out together. Too often, however, they just don’t cut it as a team, relying on individual gags to cover for the most part.
Wild Hogs is presented in its original theatric aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This transfer is pretty much everything you can expect from an average presentation. There’s nothing at all wrong with the picture. Black levels and detail are decent overall. Color offers nothing outstanding and is often rather soft, but the color accuracy is pretty natural. The open road scenes offer some incredible shots that could have looked truly outstanding with a stronger picture but still offered some nice eye candy just the same. There aren’t any flaws or print defects, and I could not really see any serious compression artifact as the film maintained a good 5-6 mbps bit rate throughout.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track needed to have far better bass response than it offered. I mean, seriously, how can you have a film featuring all of those revving bikes and not give us a little something extra in the sub range? The rest of the sound was actually pretty darn good. The road music came through, giving you a nice road picture feel throughout. The bikes did sound good in the higher ranges and offered some nice zing as they boogied on down the road. The dialog was always well defined and perfectly placed. You won’t hear a lot of aggression in the ambient sounds, and there were certainly moments I feel this presentation fell down on its job here, but we do get a few nice surround moments, mostly from the road itself.
There is a rather informative audio commentary with director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland. I must say they cover pretty much everything you might ever want to know about the film, from the musical selections to the casting and location choices.
Deleted Scenes: There are a few short scenes here that add only a minor laugh or two. The alternative ending found here was best left on the cutting room floor. The film’s actual ending is a far better choice. The other 2 pieces are merely extended scenes.
Bars, Brawls, and Burning Bars: The Making Of Wild Hogs: As you might expect this 16 minute feature spends a lot of time on the cast and the bikes. We get an amusing look at the stunt work and the participants tell us a few interesting behind the scenes nuggets. It’s a nice touch to see the actors learning to do some of the bike work themselves.
How To Get Your Wife To Let You Buy A Motorcycle: This nearly 3 minute piece is really strictly for laughs. Stunt Coordinator Jack Gill offers some real pointers, but the piece mostly makes use of Martin Lawrence’s character and his own fear of his wife for some recycled laughs.
Bloopers: This is an extremely short outtake piece.
Outtakes: Not as long or as much fun as you might expect from this film. I expected to see more bike flubs. The only real one we see is Travolta’s bird collision a few times.
You can check out a cool web link Buena Vista has set up by clicking here: Wild Hogs Site
I was told by a friend this was one of the funniest films he’s seen this year. I suspect the other comedies he’s talking about might have been Spider-Man 3 or Live Free or Die Hard. Wait a minute. Scratch that. The 4th Die Hard film was actually funnier than Wild Hogs. I’m not saying the film isn’t worth a few laughs, but I found the teaming to be awkward and I could really have done without the naked guy jokes. For me that takes the film out of the family comedy category, which could have been the film’s best niche. I’d suggest you rent this one first so you can take it out for a test drive. Kick the tires a little and I’m sure you’ll find it an enjoyable lease, but this bike’s not worth taking home for keeps. The film is certainly a trip, but “It’s like taking a trip to nowhere“.