Worst Road Trip Movies: Wild Hogs Review
It’s finally time for this series to get our hands dirty reviewing what, according to Box Office Mojo, is the highest grossing road trip comedy of all time: Wild Hogs. I don’t think those figures have been adjusted for inflation, but it’s still sad that this movie made a whopping $168,273,550, roughly three times what superior road trip comedies like Little Miss Sunshine and The Blues Brothers earned in theaters.
I have to admit that having never seen this film until last night, I went into it expecting a typical PG-rated Disney family comedy with the occasional ribald fart joke or baseball-to-the-groin gag. And yeah, it had both of those things, but this bad boy is actually a PG-13-rated romp that scandalized me with several references to condoms and frequent usage of mild profanities. The film’s tagline is “Four Guys. 2000 Miles. How Wild Can It Get?” and the answer is a resounding “Moderately!”
Wild Hogs is about four middle-aged suburbanites and motorcyclists who live in Cincinnati, Ohio; a setting which, as a Southern Ohioan, genuinely got me a little excited. It turns out, though, that not a single scene was shot in Cincy, and there are only a couple of references to the Queen City in this film: William H. Macy’s klutz character crashes into a Cincinnati Realty sign while riding his bike, Tim Allen keeps a Bengals hat in the closet next to his leather jacket, and the gang’s favorite biker bar has several Reds pennants hanging on the walls. That’s it. The main purpose the city serves is to provide Allen with this line: “I don’t think I’ve been out of Cincinnati in 12 years.” And you know what that means: ROOOOAD TRIIIIIP!!!
Tim Allen plays Doug, a stressed-out dentist who worries that his son thinks he’s lame. Martin Lawrence is Bobby, a plumber and aspiring self-help book writer who is henpecked by his loud, obnoxious wife, a stereotypical Angry Black Woman character played by Tichina Arnold. Slumming Oscar-nominee William H. Macy (Fargo) plays to type as a geeky computer programmer (his pet is named iCat and he has an Apple logo tattoo) named Dudley, who is as bad at riding his bike as he is at talking to women. And then there’s John Travolta, who really hams it up as Woody, an egotistical lawyer who is facing bankruptcy and divorce from his supermodel wife, but who lies to his friends and pretends that he is still happily married.
Of all the self-pitying and emasculated middle-aged characters, Woody is the most defensive, at one point shouting at Dudley, “If you ever lay your head on my back again when you’re riding bitch, I’ll throw you into traffic!” I find it interesting, to say the least, that Travolta was chosen to play a character that has a sham marriage and is deathly paranoid of being perceived as homosexual.
Together, this group of friends mostly just wears leather jackets that say “Wild Hogs” on the back and ride around the city together. But to escape their increasingly humdrum existences, one day the four decide to embark on a 2,000 mile road trip from Cincinnati to California. Hilarity (allegedly) ensues. Also, gay panic ensues. More gay panic ensues than hilarity, really.
When their tent burns down the first night of camping due to aforementioned hilarity, the four of them end up sharing a single air mattress. In the morning, John C. McGinley (Scrubs) shows up as a flamboyant Gay Highway Patrolman (that’s literally his character’s name in the credits), who misinterprets the gang’s sleeping arrangements as an orgy. Gay Highway Patrolman asks if he can join, terrifying the Wild Hogs, and it’s funny because gay.
Next, the Wild Hogs stop at a creek, where Dudley convinces the gang to strip down for some skinny-dipping, prompting this actual line of dialogue from Woody: “Fine, I will get naked with my gay friends, and if any of them look at my junk, I will kill them.” Methinks Woody doth protest too much.
Then Gay Highway Patrolman shows up, already naked, and jumps into the water hoping to play a game of nude Marco Polo, which is funny because gay.
Eventually the Wild Hogs stop at a tough biker bar where, unbeknownst to them, the fearsome Del Fuego biker gang hangs out. The Del Fuego’s leader, played by Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), is a deranged man named Jack who picks a fight with the Wild Hogs because he is sick of “suburban assholes who buy leather outfits and think they’re bikers.” Jack bullies Dudley into giving him his bike in exchange for a rusty sidecar, which they attach to Woody’s motorcycle for the rest of the trip.
Woody then decides he won’t be pushed around, and returns to the bar by himself to steal back Dudley’s bike. While there, he also secretly cuts the fuel lines on all of the Del Fuego’s cycles, which results in the Del Fuego bar accidentally blowing up. Woody is the only one who observes all of this, and for some reason, feels it is best to lie to his friends and tell them that he got Dudley’s bike back purely by intimidating the Del Fuegos, who, of course, are now after the Wild Hogs.
Then the film turns into something of a Western, as the Wild Hogs end up in a small New Mexican town called Madrid, where the townspeople are terrorized by the roving Del Fuegos. Even the sheriff (played by character actor Stephen Toblowsky, who steals the show) and his two twin deputies (the Sklar Brothers), are powerless to stop the Del Fuegos, and they see the Wild Hogs as biker saviors who will stand up to the gang, a la The Three Amigos.
Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei has her talents wasted in a small role as Maggie, the Madrid diner owner with whom Dudley falls in love. Things are going pretty well for them until the Del Fuegos show up and demand that the Wild Hogs pay to rebuild their bar, or else they will destroy Maggie’s diner.
The Wild Hogs decide that they will stand up for themselves (and for the good people of Madrid) by taking on all of the Del Fuego bikers, which basically translates into an uninspiring fight scene in which the Wild Hogs are punched in the face over and over.
Then, out of nowhere, Peter Fonda shows up as Damien “Dues Ex Machina” Blade, the originator of the Del Fuego gang. He declares that these four friends who had the courage to take on 50 Del Fuego bikers are the real deal, and the Del Fuegos are the ones who need to “get back on your bikes and go ride the highway until you remember what biking is all about,” which they promptly do.
Yes, that’s right: Easy Rider star/co-writer and one-time countercultural icon Peter Fonda shows up to affirm that these four privileged yuppies from suburban Ohio are the real road warriors.
Then a minivan pulls up and Bobby’s wife (who found out Bobby lied to her when he said he was just taking a business trip to a toilet bowl convention in Cleveland) immediately begins shouting at her husband. He then holds up his hands and says, “I love you, but I’m tired of being talked at… you feel me?” She feels him, and the two kiss. That’s it. That’s all it took. Bobby went on a 2,000 mile road trip to escape his problems, rather than say one sentence to his wife.
Oh, and Doug’s family is also in the minivan, and his son is impressed that Doug fought a bunch of bikers and now no longer considers his dad lame. So that turns out well, too.
The movie magic of product placement ensures that all of the motorcycles in this film are Harley-Davidsons. Doug rides a Black Fatboy with a chrome front wheel (Tim Allen is a real-life auto enthusiast, and his is the most customized bike). Woody has a Screamin’ Eagle Fatboy, Bobby has a FXSTS Springer Softail, and Dudley rides an XL1200C Sportster Custom, which is generally considered a “chick’s bike,” and thus apparently suits his wimpy persona.
Many of the bikes used by the Del Fuegos are customized choppers, and Jack’s bike in particular features the logo of Orange County Choppers, the shop run by Paul Teutul, Sr. and Paul Teutul, Jr. (Both Teutuls have a cameo early on in the film, with Jr. buying Sr. a wine cooler at the biker bar in Cincinnati).
The inciting incident between the Wild Hogs and the Del Fuegos is actually sparked when Jack misleads Dudley into thinking he will trade him a vintage 1948 Panhead that is parked outside the bar for his Sportster.
The DVD has a special feature called “Bikes, Brawls And Burning Bars: The Making of Wild Hogs,” that gives a little bit more information about how much previous experience each actor had with motorcycles (William H. Macy, true to his character, had only ever ridden a Vespa).
There is also a feature called “How To Get Your Wife To Let You Buy A Motorcycle,” because WOMEN, am I right?!? Take my wife… please!!!
Our Wild Hogs Review
This is not a good movie. In fact, it is a bad movie.
A collection of clichéd jokes about manhood and middle-aged life that are rarely funny, this film’s one redeeming feature is that there are enough random cameos and recognizable faces to keep you saying, “Oh, hey, that guy…” every so often. For example, Kyle Gas of Tenacious D shows up at the Madrid fair singing “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls in a very effeminate manner, which is funny because implied gay.
The DVD cover features a blurb from Erica Lang of NBC-TV/Houston that calls the film “the comedy event of the year,” which seems like the rankest of lies, until you realize that the film was released on March 2, 2007. Still, there wasn’t a bigger comedy event in the first two months of 2007? What about Music and Lyrics, that Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore romcom that came out on Valentine’s Day? Hell, even February’s Norbit was probably more deserving of the superlative than Wild Hogs.
Patrick Grieve was born in Southwestern Ohio and has lived there all of his life, with the exception of a few years spent getting a Creative Writing degree in Southeastern Ohio. He loves to take road trips, sometimes to places as distant as Northeastern or even Northwestern Ohio. Patrick also enjoys old movies, shopping at thrift stores, going to ballgames, writing about those things, and watching Law & Order reruns. He just watches the original series, though, none of the spin-offs. And also only the ones they made before Jerry Orbach died. Season five was really the peak, in his opinion. See more articles by Patrick.