Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Wild Hogs (2007)

 

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Wild Hogs (2007)
Tim Allen
John Travolta
Martin Lawrence
William H. Macy
Marisa Tomei
 
Ever since Adam was last seen running around naked as a jaybird in the garden of Eden, middle aged men have been undergoing a mid life crises. As a matter of fact, it was Adam’s mid life self doubt that enabled Eve to convince him to take a bite out of that damn apple. What? You don’t believe me? How do I know this? It’s because I’m a true scholar and you’re not.

Way back either a gazillion years ago or two thousand years ago depending on your religion and which bible you have handy, Adam was pondering, questioning his values, and wondering if there was more to life than hanging around the Garden of Eden watching Eve horse assing around with that damn snake in the grass. He wondered if the rest of his days would be spent doing nothing more than eating bananas and oranges, watching his hair get more grey, and trying to figure out what it was about a certain snake that captivated Eve.
 
So when she told him that the serpent said taking a bite of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge would make him feel better and open up a whole new life for him, Adam was ready and willing to change his hum drum life. And ever since that fateful day when Adam suddenly discovered that Eve was indeed one hot mama with boobs, Hollywood has found the subject of men and their mid life crises to be the stuff of box office gold. Okay, so my bible is a little different from yours. Let’s not nit pick.

For a long while, most of the stories Hollywood concocted on the subject matter revolved around the one man one mid life crises at a time dilemma. Sometimes the plot would center around one man’s lust for another woman, sometimes another man’s woman, or sometimes his daughter’s best friend or as in the case of Blame It On Rio, your best friend’s daughter.
 
For instance, in 1955 Tom Ewell lusted happily after Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch while his wife was away on vacation. Could you blame him? But the film ended with Tom heading out to join his wife and kid on vacation with his many fantasies in regards to Miss Monroe remaining unfulfilled. Well, it was the fifties so what did you expect?
 
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The film did not end so happily for another person approaching their mid life crises though. It seemed Joe DiMaggio just didn’t much care for billboards showing his wife Marilyn’s skirt billowing upward above her panties being plastered all over New York City.
 
Forty-four years later, Hollywood was still at it. The man was still middle-aged but the gal was much younger as Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) went completely bananas while having a lustful eye for teenager Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari). And unlike old Tom Ewell and his Seven Year Itch, this time the ending wasn’t at all cheerful for poor old Lester, may he rest in peace.

Lester’s undoing was that he just never took the time to realize that the best way to discover yourself after forty is to go on an outing with your best buddies forever. I mean, didn’t he at some point see City Slickers where Mitch (Billy Crystal) and his pals Phil ( Daniel Stern) and Ed (Bruno Kirby)went on a Cattle Drive to rediscover and reinvent their sad and pathetic lives? If Lester was that horny, he could have gone on a Cattle Drive, found himself and possibly a nice looking cowgirl like Bonnie Rayburn (Helen Slater) to lust after just like Phil did. And let me tell you, I would have taken Supergirl over Mena Suvari any old day of the week. At any rate, it’s way too late for Lester but not too late for our newest group of fifty somethings plus one. Plus one? Well, you’ll see.

Although Lester was never lucky enough to go on a buddy driven cattle drive, Hollywood knows a good thing when they have one and once again have brought to the silver screen another saga of middle aged men feeling as if they have wasted their entire lives without doing anything interesting or exciting and are just biding time until old age, arthritis, and low box office receipts, sink them once and for all. For this 2007 replay of the men in flux plot, Touchstone Pictures lined up four familiar names that have all had big screen successes at various times in their careers. Our would be explorers this time around are Dougie (Tim Allen. Age 53), Woody (John Travolta Age 52), Dudley (William H. Macy Age 57) and Bobby (Martin Lawrence (Age 42), thus making Bobby the aforementioned plus one.
 
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Since Billy Crystal and his gang of rootin’ tootin’ cowboys had already done the cowpoking horse riding scenario twice, writer Brad Copeland decided to send this aging quartet out west to discover the Pacific Ocean by way of motorcycles. Of course, to go out west our quaint quartet has to have a reason to go, and as always the case in movie land, each of the four friends are coping with a different set of circumstances.

Dougie is a Dentist who does nothing but clean and pull teeth all day and has trouble relating to his kid who thinks the old man is a total bore.

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Then there is shy and timid Dudley, who has never had a steady girlfriend, and quite possibly has never dated any woman more than once. Old Dud is also a major klutz, so if the script calls for pratfalls and physical humor, he is ready willing and able to provide it.
 
Woody is a rich guy who unbeknownst to his BBF’s (best buddies forever) is now broke and in the middle of a divorce. He is nothing more than your every day All-American Jerk.
 
And Bobby? He lives in a house with his wife, his two daughters and his mother-in-law and is totally henpecked by all of them. We find all of this out in the first few minutes of the film when we are quickly shown about two minutes, maybe less of each sad and pathetic life. Think of it as a cram course in getting to know your movie characters. And shortly after that we find out that the foursome gets together on weekends and ride their motorcycles, except for Dudley who spends a lot of time being knocked off of his by stop signs and anything else that might happen into his path.

So were they all once members of a motorcycle gang when they were younger? No, they weren’t. The reason they are the Wild Hogs is because Dougie’s wife sewed the Wild Hogs emblems on their leather jackets to make them feel better. To feel better about what exactly we are never told.
 
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After having lost everything and now having nothing, it is Woody who comes up with the idea for a cross country trip. And after quite a bit of coaxing and one panic attack, our fun bunch are on their way to entertain us and keep us rolling in the aisles with their humorous but touching story of four men out to rediscover life. Well, not exactly.
As it turns out, you’ll be hard pressed to find too many humorous moments and the only touching that is done has nothing to do with your heart strings. It comes early in the film when the feckless foursome are discovered sleeping together by a gay state patrolman. Yes, it’s the same scene you’ve already seen dozens of time in the preview, and have seen in countless other films that try to turn homophobia into high camp or comedy.
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Later, we get another comedy bit where the guys go skinny dipping, and shortly after that they meet up with what turns out to be their main antagonists, a real genuine practicing over-the-hill motorcycle type gang called the “Del Fuegos,” who spend most of their time sitting in their favorite bar. The gang is led by Jack (Ray Liotta Age 53), and he and his bbf’s (best buddies forever) wastes no time in sending the Hogs on their way but not until after they’ve stolen Dudley’s motorcycle. Shortly thereafter Woody decides to sneak back to the bar to reclaim Dudley’s cycle, and in the process accidentally burns the bar down, an important detail that he fails to mention to the guys, just in case doing so might muck up the plot or the suspense if there really were any.

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All of this happens before the movie is even half over, and that’s not a good thing. Soon the boys end up in a small town and we spend the rest of the time waiting for the completely predictable and obvious to happen. Will Jack and the Del Fuego’s find the Hogs? Will the Hogs find out the truth about what happened to the bar? Will Dudley find a gal (Marisa Tomei) and fall in love? Will the Hogs find their manhood and stand up against the Del Fuegos before its too late? Will Woody tell the guys his wife divorced him and that he is broke? Will we be entertained for the rest of the movie? Will we even care about all of this? I can answer the last two questions for you by telling you that the answer is a very emphatic no.
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The problem is not that the entire second half of the film is so predictable because that can be overcome with a witty script and putting the guys in some humorous or even semi-humorous situations. But it never materializes. Once the guys are finished with their skinny dipping which isn’t all that funny in the first place, the rest of the movie is dead on arrival. I did not laugh one time.
 
In City Slickers, much of the humor was derived from the fact that the Billy Crystal and his bbf’s (best buddies forever) had never been on anything like a cattle drive thus making each situation new to them so that they could be easily milked for as much humor as the script called for. In Wild Hogs, other than the fact that these guys are on a cross country trip, they already know about all there is to riding a motorcycle down the road just as millions of other people do every day. The only obstacles they really come up against within the film are the gay motorcycle cop, a family swim meet, and the motorcycle gang. That’s it. And since the whole motorcycle gang plot takes up more than half of the running time, there’s not much time to have fun with anything else. Even the big climactic confrontation with the Del Fuegos at the end fails to generate any humor or excitement.
 
To make matters worse, never once during the film do we really have any sense of fun and adventure. There’s something romantic and adventurous about a cattle drive, but nothing remotely resembling that seemed to have entered the writers thoughts when they were putting the script together of our four motorcycle riders. In a trip across country, you would think they could have come up with something more than what we have here. At one point the writer must have become so desperate for something funny to happen these guys, he randomly throws in a bull slapping scene that has absolutely nothing to do with what is going on in this film. Yes, I know that was in the trailer also, as were most of the so called comedic scenes. So if you’ve seen that, you have in fact seen the movie.

Another reason City Slickers succeeded where this film fails is that it took the time at the beginning to help us connect with the characters. In Wild Hogs, we are escorted through these guys life problems so fast that we are never really given the chance to care if they go on some damn motorcycle trip or not. It doesn’t help any that Travolta plays Woody first as a jerk, and then later as a simpering, whiny, coward. Nor does it help that although we see that Martin Lawrence’s Bobby is henpecked, it seems to be a problem of his own making. When you compare that to Daniel Stern’s extra-marital affair being exposed in front of his wife in City Slickers, it pales by comparison. Not to mention the fact that just that one scene in City Slickers is worth way more laughs than all the scenes in Wild Hogs put together. The best I can say about Martin Lawrence though is that in this film, he is at least tolerable and this is the first film I’ve seen him in where he achieved that dubious distinction. Not so John Travolta, who seems to be on another one of his many downward career slides.

Tim Allen on the other hand, just doesn’t have the knack to make you sympathize with his character the way Billy Crystal has always been able to in his films. Tim Allen’s film career has been totally dependent on putting him in some outlandish situation and seeing how well he copes with it. In other words, he can only be as good as the script is, as was the case in Galaxy Quest. The strange thing is that although Allen seems to have top billing and is used extensively in the first twenty minutes to set up the premise, once the trip gets under way he just as well have headed off in a different direction considering how much he is given to do.

Bill Macy, who is the best of a very sad lot should have known better than to get involved or at least should have read the script before signing on the dotted line We like him, we like Dudley, but like everything else we just don’t care. And his impending romance with Marisa Tomei is never anything close to being believable. There are times when both of them looked as if they wished they were somewhere else.
 
When I first heard of the idea for Wild Hogs, I thought it was something that had considerable possibilities if done right. I guess a lot of other people thought so as well as it did boffo box office in the first weekend of release. Inexplicably, even after that opening week when word of mouth should have killed it, Hogs went on to gross $168 million in the U.S. alone. And if that isn’t enough, the film seems to be making another killing on its recent DVD release. The only explanation that I can offer is that there must be an awful lot of kids out there under the age of 12 who for one reason or another, find the inane antics of the Wild Hogs simply mesmerizing. Sort of like watching the Three Stooges on two wheelers. Wait a minute. I take that back. That’s an insult to the Stooges and Stooge fans everywhere.

But for anyone older than 10 or eleven, I advise that you only watch this at your own peril. And maybe I just figured out what really was bothering Lester in American Beauty. Perhaps he had seen the future and saw himself riding a motorcycle to the west coast with a gang of misfits. That would be more than enough to depress anybody. And because of that I have no choice but to offer Wild Hogs my grade, and that would be a D+. If only they could have figured out a way for a motorcycle to give birth to a baby calf, it might have all worked out in the end. There’s always the unfortunate possibility of a sequel to accomplish that though.. I dread the thought.

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