Judge Ryan Keefer really wants to know what you call a neutered, harmless bull?
Our review of Wild Hogs, published August 13th, 2007, is also available.
Four guys. 2,000 miles. How wild can it get?
By all observations, Wild Hogs has been the breakaway hit for 2007. Featuring a convicted drug dealer, a guy who experienced the rigors of a coma, a really good actor and, well, John Travolta, the film has made over $150 million, all but guaranteeing a sequel. So now that Wild Hogs is out on video, what's all the hubbub about?
Facts of the Case
Written by Brad Copeland, previously known as a writer for TV shows such as Arrested Development and My Name is Earl, and directed by Walt Becker (of Van Wilder fame), the film follows the Easy Rider point of view, more or less. But you can get rid of George Hanson from that vision and focus on the new breed of hog riders. There's Doug (Tim Allen, Toy Story), Woody (Travolta), Bobby (Martin Lawrence, Bad Boys) and Dudley (William H. Macy, Fargo). They head off on a trek from Ohio to get to the Pacific, but on their way, they bump into a biker gang from New Mexico called the Del Fuegos, headed by the rough and tumble Jack (Ray Liotta, Goodfellas). The boys, "Wild Hogs" as they are called, receive their own character transformations and spread their proverbial wings in things they might not have had the courage to do before. So if the awakening of their souls is something you like, this may be your cup of tea.
Ugh, what has happened to the Great American road film? Easy Rider is obviously the standard to which all the others are held, when it comes to the allure of heading out and riding. The Albert Brooks gem Lost in America helps to take that mystique and wax upon the idyllic nature of heading out for heading out's sake. And now with Wild Hogs, you get four guys who, quite frankly, have no business riding motorcycles, but are doing it to reclaim some sort of spirituality that they lost from their younger days. The problem with romanticizing the urge to do a road trip, or a bike trip if you will, you've got to spend more time focusing on the urge. Instead of that, we get Copeland and Becker pinning together any sort of silly joke available, and the jokes aren't funny. And that's particularly disappointing in Copeland's case. The guy is an accomplished sitcom writer, and his talents are wasted here. The film is more in love with trying to get these old guys on the road than the road itself, and despite a late film cameo by Peter Fonda, the film has become such a dog that a flea and tick dip is in order.
In all fairness, I disagree with the esteemed Judge Bill Gibron with regards to William H. Macy. I enjoyed his performance as the hapless Dudley. Typecast as the typical nerd, he plays up the motorcycle infatuation rather well, and seems to be the only one really trying here, as Allen seems a bit overmedicated at times, and Travolta is just an overly demonstrative jerk. His romantic interest in the film is played by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), and they seem to have a little bit of chemistry going for them. At the end of the day when it comes to the performances in this film, the only thing that seemed to come from Wild Hogs was that some of the actors got a free motorcycle out of it.
From a technical perspective, the MPEG-4 encoded transfer appears to bring the goods, as it should since there are quite a few shots that show off the American landscape. Quite a bit of detail is sported, and the blacks are solid and provide an excellent contrast. The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is quite a surprise too, as the bikes provide quite a bit of low end activity and there's much more surround activity than I was expecting. The extras appear to be the same as those found on the standard definition edition. First off, there's a commentary with Copeland and Becker. If there's a theme to the commentary, it's that these guys really managed to hit it big with the power of the mouse when it came to musical rights, casting and the like. Copeland discusses the dynamics of the story and characters, and helps explain the allure of riding a motorcycle. Otherwise, you're not really missing much. There are three minutes of outtakes that aren't that funny, followed by a quick look at convincing your wife (or significant other) to have a motorcycle in the house. There's a fifteen minute making of look at the film that stays pretty topical and is like any other "making of" piece we've seen before.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The boys from American Chopper (namely Paul Sr. and Paul Jr.) appear in the beginning of the film in quick guest star roles, so that's cool. And in the commentary, Copeland and Becker explain that some Orange County Choppers were built for the film. So why not show off some of that stuff on this disc? Disney's got everything else, this shouldn't have been a problem.
I watched Wild Hogs on a round trip plane ride several months ago. I couldn't necessarily throw myself out of the plane, as my wife was there and who needs that headache. Still though, this film has no originality, the humor is flat, the action is nothing you haven't seen before, and sadly enough, the film represents a step back in Macy's career. I'm sure it was probably fun on set, but a lot of things can be fun. Like a pony ride, or a bag of popcorn. But like other good things that please the individual, keep it to yourself.
The court shudders to think what would have happened if more people saw this film, but hopefully we can let sleeping dogs (or hogs) lie and give it a guilty verdict.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director Walt Becker and Writer Brad Copeland
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