Travel Movie Review: Wild Hogs

Nothing beats a road movie. The draw of the long yellow line hits all of us a time or two in our lives, and since we can’t all leave our jobs at a moment’s notice and go all Jack Kerouac for a few months, living vicariously through road movies and books has become quite the passion for many.

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No matter whether you’ve ever had a Harley between your legs or not, it’s hard to argue that the dream of riding a fat hog across the country is pretty hard to resist, especially once you’ve read the classic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or seen the Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries. So where does Wild Hogs fit in amongst the classic works of bike noir?

It really doesn’t.

For a road movie, this is one that spends a lot of time on the road, and yet goes absolutely nowhere. Shot entirely in New Mexico, you don’t get any of the attractions you might think of with such a sprawling canvas before you; no Grand Canyon, no tumbling tumbleweeds, no incredible sunsets.

Instead, you get Bill Macy riding into trees, Ray Liotta playing an over the top biker gang boss, John Travolta really trying to be funny (and failing miserably), and more homophobia gags than is really fair to throw at an audience of kids and parents.

The storyline isn’t rocket science; a group of four aging buddies decide to reclaim some of their manhood by getting on their motorbikes and taking off for ”˜wherever’, only for zany hijinks to ensue as they get bullied by ”˜real’ bikers.

The core of the film lies in the four lead characters — Travolta, Macy, the usually detestable (and, at least in this film, strangely likeable) Martin Lawrence, and Tim “I’ll be making these kinds of films until I die” Allen, and that’s the first issue the makers of this film have to overcome. Oh sure, people know those guys. And yeah, the films they’ve been in before have made some money”¦ but does anyone REALLY like those guys?

Let me rephrase that — does anyone with common sense and a degree like those guys?

With the amount of money being spent on the production of this film, they could have spent a few days shooting the main characters riding through different landscapes — cornfields in Kansas or over The Rockies or through small towns”¦ you know, capitalize on the Americana aspect and give the film some respite from the yukyuk jokes as the audience thinks, “Wow, maybe I really should go on that road trip I’ve been thinking about”¦”

But that doesn’t happen. Instead, despite the fact that the film is supposedly set on the road leading out of Cincinnati, it’s as if the entire film was shot within a five mile area. In fact, when one of the characters tosses a cellphone on the road, as the group is supposedly leaving Cincinnati, you can see a giant “New Mexico” on a building behind them. Weak!

The jokes are sometimes funny, but they’ll be at their funniest if you think any sort of homosexual aspersion is just knee-slappingly hilarious. “OHMYGOD! THAT GUY IS WEARING A DRESS! BWAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA” — that kind of thing. Otherwise, it’s rather juvenile stuff, always going for the easy pratfall, the obvious punchline, and the mean-spirited insult.

Interestingly, the film has undergone a series of name changes in other parts of the world. In France, for example, it’s called Band of Savages. In Germany, it’s Born to Be Wild: Slowly Underway. Argentina calls it Rebels With a Cause. In the Phillipines, the film goes by the name of Blackberry.

And quite frankly, that piece of trivia is about the most interesting thing about the film.

If you’re looking for a little vicarious road trip living”¦ move along. Nothing to see here.

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