Starring John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence, and Tim Allen. Rated PG.
The Year of the Pig has ushered in Wild Hogs. And although the coming-of-middle-age comedy is not a complete bore, the pudgy bikers of the title are about as intimidating as the pink, porcine balloons I watched bobbing along in Chinatown's New Year celebration recently. Given that the main characters are four woman-whipped men seeking to reclaim their manhood on a motorcycle road trip, the movie's ideal audience is oldsters suffering marital-induced sloth and primed to experience retro euphoria when Foghat starts throbbing on the catchy rock 'n' roll soundtrack. Or perhaps anyone dying to know how John Travolta reacts when a man lovingly sniffs his bull neck.
Oh, come on, John, we think when Travolta, as Woody, zips up in tight black leathers and straddles a Harley. You know your fans are more Davie Village than bridal shower. Indeed, Wild Hogs plays less like a road trip than Travolta's tongue-in-cheek sop to those who forever speculate about his sexuality. And director Walt Becker plays along. Hot on the gaydar are John C. McGinley's flaming state patrolman, a bearish biker barkeep who waxes poetic about spa days, and Travolta's titillating declaration that he'll "be the girl" when teaching a dude to dance. Female characters are scarce, and mostly antagonistic.
Woody's partners in virility resuscitation are William H. Macy's Dudley, Martin Lawrence's Bobby, and Tim Allen's Doug; however, the college buddies get more of a machismo boost than anticipated when they encounter a genuine biker gang called the Del Fuegos.
This movie didn't need to be made, but it does boast some unexpected laughs. The plus side of actors playing faultlessly true to type-Travolta petulant, Macy logical, Lawrence gormless, and Allen incredulous-is that when dumped onto unfamiliar turf we're more excited anticipating events than watching them actually unfold. Macy's tongue-tied romantic is a hilarious standout. Ray Liotta, with his spider neck tat and dead eyes, is perfect as a biker boss. The porcelain veneers and dewy skin of two dozen less convincing bikers out them as day players from the Really Scary Motorcycle Guy Extra Company.
That alone would be reason enough for the Hells Angels to have threatened to sue a division of Disney last year for planning to use their name and logo without permission. And wouldn't you know it: the filmmakers couldn't resist getting the last hit. In a scene where Dudley flaunts a tattoo of the Apple logo, he sneers of the trademark infringement, "It's in my skin, bitch." That's the bravest line in the film.