Directed by Walt Becker
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 100 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: EHD, French, Spanish
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Review Date: August 3, 2007
Walt Becker’s Wild Hogs is a slender, predictable comedy with outstanding actors trying to make something funny out of basically trite material. That they often succeed in making it amusing is a testament to their gifts as comic actors, but real inventiveness, wit, and high comedy are not be to found here. This is the baggy-pants school of comedy on display where kicks-to-the-groin, pee and poop jokes, and slapstick shenanigans (e.g. dousing a fire with gasoline) are the order of the day. Silly and slight, the film was an enormous box-office hit this past spring. Big name stars in familiar Disney comedyland promised and delivered a genuine crowd pleaser.
Screenwriter Brad Copeland has fashioned four one-note characters: workaholic dentist Doug (Tim Allen), showy investor Woody (John Travolta), henpecked husband/plumber Bobby (Martin Lawrence), and nerdy, girl shy computer programmer Dudley (William H. Macy). Right off the bat one must buy that these four guys from different strata of society and with such glaringly incompatible personalities would be palling around together on motorcycles. (A more interesting story might have been how the four met and became such good friends.) Each in the midst of a debilitating mid-life crisis, they decide to take a road trip together from Ohio to California on their motorcycles. The film details their adventures on the road, everything from unwanted attention from a gay motorcycle cop (John C. McGinley) to alienating a bullying biker gang by inadvertently burning down their bar and destroying some of their rides.
Eventually they land in Madrid, New Mexico, where each man must confront his own fears and weaknesses. A lovely bar owner Maggie (Marisa Tomei) falls for Macy (really?), and the bikers, who have terrorized the town before, arrive to seek vengeance on our four heroes. Their leader Jack (Ray Liotta) is especially anxious to reap payback for the destruction of the bar (it belonged to his family as we later learn) and to save face in front of his gang after being outsmarted earlier.
Copeland hasn’t really come up with much that’s fresh in terms of plot (and he’s written for two of the best sitcoms of the past five years – Arrested Development and My Name Is Earl), and the gags are so predictable one can see them coming with little effort. There are some good stunts that evoke some genuine laughs and one buzzard that’s hysterical, the film’s best sight gag. But I kept hoping for something more for these talented people to do. In addition to the named cast above, the movie also has Jill Hennesy, Tichina Arnold, Stephan Tobolowsky, and several surprise cameo appearances of familiar faces from previous biker films, cable and network television. They all provide momentarily welcome relief from the commonplace script and the unimaginative direction by Becker.
None of the four male stars is stretching his comic muscles to any extent, but Allen has a good comic moment at the dinner table that serves as the impetus for him to join the odyssey, and Lawrence plays a henpecked husband very convincingly. Macy’s milquetoast nerd is a bit much especially after we’ve seen him do that already to a fare-thee-well in Fargo. All four handle their bikes with ease clearly doing much of the riding we see on the screen. As for Ray Liotta, on paper, his casting was a smart idea, and he’s playing it as mean and rotten as he can, but it’s never threatening. Now, the Ray Liotta from Something Wild, that Ray Liotta had me squirming in my theater seat!
Wild Hogs is a feather-light comedy with famous faces doing the expected. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, this movie is an innocuous way to spend an evening.
Robbie Greenberg’s Panavision photography has been well captured in the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer on this DVD. The film is in pristine condition with excellent color, accurate fleshtones, and a generally sharp picture. Occasionally, the focus gets a bit soft in some panoramas, and there is edge enhancement present from time to time. Blacks are solid, however, and colors never bleed. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is rock solid with effective use of the entire soundfield though more should have been done with the surrounds which go curiously silent too often. Certainly there is no hiss or other annoying audio artifacts in this presentation.
Director Walt Becker and screenwriter Brad Copeland provide an audio commentary which is overly generous with praise for all involved with the production. However, they do each give some good behind-the-scenes information on the casting and filming of the movie, and after a slow start, they seem to get in the groove and talk consistently throughout the running time of the film.
Bikes, Brawls, and Burning Bars: The Making of “Wild Hogs” is a 16-minute featurette containing interviews with several key personnel both before and behind the camera. The documentary covers the three major set pieces in the movie: the bull ring scene, the climactic brawl, and the spectacular bar explosion. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic video with generous use of clips from the film, the feature does end very abruptly.
How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle is a 3-minute throwaway feature offering suggestions on the male side of a potential family dispute about purchasing a motorcycle. It’s presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
The disc offers up three deleted scenes, two of which can have accompanying commentary or not. One is an alternate ending (which I would have preferred) and two others added virtually nothing to the film and were wisely omitted.
There’s approximately 2½ minutes of outtakes and bloopers also presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The usual Disney collection of trailers of upcoming theatrical and DVD releases includes The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Invisible.
Wild Hogs isn’t going to be on anyone’s list of the year’s most scintillating comedies, but it’s mildly pleasurable if completely predictable. But stay tuned to the credits which contain the best comic sequence in the film, a witty application of one of TV’s most bathos-filled series to the circumstances in the movie.
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