The first joke in Wild Hogs sets its limits. Four lumpy-bodied, weekend bikers ride their machines through a suburban neighborhood, their helmets shielding their identities, except that you know who they are. As John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy make their along a bumpless road, their self-congratulatory smiles suggest a certain movie-styled serenity. And then the puncline: Macy, not quite so smug as his fellows, hits a curb, takes a tumble, and lands, whomp, on his kiester. Har har har. His friends smile and roll their eyes. And we’re off and running.
From the director responsible for Van Wilder, Wild Hogs is another thudding men-will-be-boys saga, this time populated by middle-agey stereotypes. The premise is the plot: Doug (Allen), Woody (Travolta), plumber Bobby (Lawrence), and the odiously monikered Dudley (Macy) decide they need to change up their routines. Doug’s a dentist (but of course!), Woody’s a loudmouthed stud in hiding from the demise of his studliness (his trophy wife is leaving him, his portfolio is bankrupt), Bobby’s dominated by his scary-black-woman wife Karen (Tichina Arnold), and Dudley, well, he’s just scared of living. He, by the way, appears to deserve all mistreatment dumped on him: at the coffee shop where he hangs out, this professional computer programmer is unable to shut down an accidentally tapped porn site—something to do with barnyard animals—thus soliciting horror from fellow customers, including the pretty girl he was trying to impress.
To remedy their various woes, the guys take a road trip; the one person who encourages them is Doug’s incessantly perfect wife Kelly (Jill Hennessy), understanding, with some help from emergency room doctor/media whore Drew Pinskey, that her man’s “stress-induced panic attack” might best be remedied by a little adventure. They take off the so-utterly-tired tune of “Highway to Hell,” waving to pretty girls in a jeep, sure of their manly DNA remerging. Even when they’re accosted by a horny motorcycle cop (John C. McGinley, borrowing from Lieutenant Jim Dangle) who mistakes their manly camaraderie for homosexuality, they persist, believing that they’ll find their new and better selves out there on the road.
They find more purpose than they bargain for when they run smack into big meanie Jack (Ray Liotta), leader of the Del Fuegos motorcycle gang, whose mission in life is to pick on weaklings to prove his ascendancy, yadda yadda yadda. When the Wild Hogs cross Jack sort of accidentally (at least Woody doesn’t inform his buddies just how badly he’s crossed him, though it elicits a look of wonder from Jack: “Those assholes got balls!”), they find simultaneous refuge and standoff location in a teeny New Mexican town in need of Seven Samurai-style saving.
As Madrid has long been terrorized by the Del Fuegos, the townsfolk are eager to see the new guys defend them. However this happens—and it hardly matters—the upshot is that each of the Wild Hogs also finds a version of “himself.” This amid a daunting array of gay jokes, black jokes, bitchy women jokes, bad camping jokes, and motorcycle/bad boy rock songs, such that the movie hits all the formulaic touchstones. The Wild Hogs gripe, bicker, and bond, and a couple of them even find true love in female forms. Marisa Tomei, of all people, plays Maggie, an independent-minded, snug-jeansed diner owner destined to rescue Dudley from his social ineptitude.
That the movie is craven and insulting is not surprising, as that’s essentially the genre it claims. But you have to winder what sorts of gargantuan house payments have been incurred by someone like Liotta or Macy, that he would read the script and sign on for such robust reputational abuse.