Born to be mild: Bikers stick to familiar sitcom road

  • By Robert Horton / Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, March 1, 2007 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Baby-boomer restlessness finds a farcical outlet in “Wild Hogs,” a daffy movie about suburban chuckleheads hitting the great American highway.

Four Cincinnati men meet once a week to ride their motorcycles in the city and spend an hour at a touristy biker bar. They’ve got matching patches on their leather jackets (dubbing themselves the “Wild Hogs,” naturally), but these Hell’s Angels are in limbo. Suddenly they’re fed up with being the non-wild bunch.

So they say goodbye to their wives, throw away their cell phones, and point their choppers west. They’re played by Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy.

Each of the veteran actors has a single trait: Allen is an uptight dentist, Travolta is a troublemaker, Lawrence (who looks at least 10 years younger than the others) is henpecked at home and Macy is unbearably geeky.

Although Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence are the professional comedians, Macy ends up with the majority of laughs. He’s an expert actor, and he’s always willing to let himself look foolish. (As the only unmarried member of the group, he also gets a love interest: Marisa Tomei as a small-town New Mexico restaurateur.)

Travolta looks as though he’s enjoying himself, although he shouldn’t have spent most of the movie with a bandanna around his noggin – his giant head looks even huger than usual. Of course, he ought to be wearing a motorcycle helmet, but cheerfully refuses, thus sending a bad message and setting up a sequel: “Wild Hogs in a Coma.”

The boys run afoul of a real Hell’s Angels gang, led by Ray Liotta, which results in the Wild Hogs getting chased across the Southwest. It’s sort of like one of those scary 1970s TV movies about vacationing innocents terrorized by drifters – except played for laughs.

And there are a few laughs. Although the movie is stuck at a TV-level sense of humor, it’s not slapdash – somebody actually took the time to write this thing.

It ends with a big donnybrook and a cameo by an actor associated with biker films – his second such role this month, after “Ghost Rider.” Nobody’s head bursts into flame, but the movie has a flaming marshmallow (which sets fire to the guys’ tents) and a flaming highway patrolman (John C. McGinley, from “Scrubs”). The cop takes one look at these paunchy bikers skinny-dipping and falls in lust with them – a tribute to McGinley’s acting talent.

Martin Lawrence, Tim Allen and John Travolta star in “Wild Hogs.”

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