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Pigs in Slop 

Old men in leather pants take the road to noplace good.

Travolta, Macy, and Allen: Uneasy riders.
  • Travolta, Macy, and Allen: Uneasy riders.
Wild Hogs -- in which John Travolta, William H. Macy, Tim Allen, and Martin Lawrence play emasculated suburbanites taking a cross-country motorcycle trip to rediscover their masculinity -- doesn't even sound like a real movie when you describe it to people. They give you that yer-shittin'-me stare, as though it were even possible to make up such a scenario. Then the disbelieving wonder if the actors even shot their scenes together or were filmed on separate soundstages. The thing appears to have been cast randomly.

Wild Hogs imagines itself as an amalgam of St. Elmo's Fire, The Wild Bunch, and Deliverance -- or so says smarmy, hammy Woody (Travolta), whose supermodel wife has left him bankrupt and homeless. It's Woody who convinces his pals to ditch their day jobs for a week on the road, traveling from Cincinnati to California in strip-mall-purchased leather pants and perfectly polished Harleys. He's the leader, for no other reason than that he's John Travolta -- larger than life and getting a little larger every day. The other men, all desperately trying to find characters within their caricatures, are just along for the joyride, empty vehicles coasting in his wake. It's especially dispiriting to see Macy, as a shy computer-programming klutz, stumbling around in a movie that renders him as little more than a buffoonish punch line.

Wild Hogs, written by a man who's done some Arrested Development episodes and directed by the guy who made Van Wilder, also fancies itself a sorta-sequel to Easy Rider; hence the last-scene cameo from one of that movie's stars, who shows up to apologize for the bad behavior of a biker gang that's lost sight of what it means to "be free." In that respect, Wild Hogs would have you believe that it's also a successor to Albert Brooks' Lost in America, in which an ad man ditches his comfortable, conformist existence to drop out and discover the countryside. But Brooks' film was a heartfelt send-up of the coddled yuppie who believes he was born to be wild. It was shot through with honest desperation, which made the jokes not only resonate but redemptive -- at least he knew he was being an ass. Wild Hogs cannot be bothered with giving its protagonists soul or self-awareness. In fact, it comes off as surprisingly mean-spirited, down to every last we-ain't-gay joke.

It would give the film too much credit to try to fathom its intentions; it doesn't deserve a trenchant discussion about the restlessness of the middle-aged man who believes rebellion can be purchased at a Harley-Davidson franchise or the deep-seated homophobia of Middle America. Maybe it was supposed to be about those things, but it wound up as nothing but a collection of lame and lazy jokes.

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