Wild Hogs

Wild HogsWild Hogs is based on a premise not unlike so many throwaway sitcoms: take a few ecclectic personalities, put them in a unique or singular situation, and watch the hilarity unfold. And like so many throwaway sitcoms, the concept actually has starts out well with some genuine sparks of creativity but quickly loses its way and gets mired in a hopeless rut of infantile scatalogical gags and cheap jokes for which someone clearly forgot to pen a punch line. The situation here is a road trip, and the characters are as generic as one could ask for: four middle-aged men longing to recapture their glory days after being faced with the clear revelation that their best years may have passed them by. This group of friends, who call themselves the Wild Hogs, used to be (or so we are told) something of a daring troupe of young firestarters. Having succumbed to the Hollywood faux-realities of suburban life, they decide one day to take a motorcycle trip to the coast with the wind at their backs and no rules or women to get in their way. (This being a Hollywood movie, the women in these men’s lives serve as little more than one-dimensional facades with bullet points of characterization: nag, berate, belittle your man.)

The meta-joke here is that the four guys are played by somewhat washed-up movie stars seeking, ostensibly, to recapture a bit of their former fame. John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy, who seem just as out of place and uncomfortable in leather jackets and do-rags as one could imagine, do their best to act like lifelong buddies when it’s pretty clear they all just showed up to flash a grin and collect a paycheck. Nevertheless, they do form an entertaining bunch of buds, and Allen and Lawrence riff on each other with at least a shadow of the biting wit and sarcasm on which they built their careers more than a decade ago. Travolta must have thought he was filming Face/Off Part 2, as he spends most of the movie acting like an over-the-top Nicolas Cage. And that’s saying something.  We are supposed to believe the Wild Hogs are a close-knit group of lifelong friends, but the chemistry just isn’t there.  Instead they seem like a group of four guys who are getting paid to act as if they are lifelong friends.  Oh, wait.

Wild Hogs: Tim Allen

"This one time on Home Improvement, Jill was mad at me so I got advice from Wilson. And then I made fun of Al's mom!"

Once they shrug off the chains of women, kids, jobs, and escape from the seventh level of hades known in Hollywood as “marriage,” they find themselves careening down the highway without any worries, cares, or cell phones in order to recapture a bit of the good ol’ days.  But sure enough, things get out of hand pretty quickly as they encounter overbearing policemen, tent fires, and a paint-by-numbers motorcycle gang called the Del Fuegos who does not suffer posers gladly.  It’s too bad that the road trip has so many missed opportunities, as this type of setup is essentially a blank canvas for which to create any number of potentially funny situations.  But rather than trying to be creative or interesting, the movie races straight to junior-high humor and stays there.  We are treated to gags about bodily fluids, mishaps with wild animals, and a scene in which the guys decide to go skinny dipping in a hot spring only to be interrupted by (who else?) an unsuspecting vacationing family (oh the hilarity!).  Of all the possibilities afforded by the road trip setup and the four talented actors on display here, we instead get poop jokes and gay cops.

Something resembling a conflict enters the mix when the Wild Hogs set out to save a small town from the terrorizing throes of the  Del Fuegos and their schoolyard bully leader Jack (Ray Liotta).  Dudley (William H. Macy) also finds himself a love interest named Maggie (Marisa Tomei) who runs the local diner and could sure use a biker in shining leather to save her from the mean Del Fuego men.  Like the rest of the movie, it’s a by-the-book setup that plays out exactly how you think it will, which is again kind of sad given the sheer number of missed opportunities to be truly creative.  And despite good performances from Allen, Lawrence, and Liotta, there is very little here to recommend to anyone.


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 3.5/5 (2 votes cast)

Death at a Funeral (2010)

I sat through Neil LaBute’s attempt at reincarnating the British farce “Death at a Funeral” (which I hadn’t seen prior), and I can only imagine that fans of the original film are either outraged or easy to dismiss the Americanized version that has been tailored to fit the Tyler Perry crowd.  Overall, I have little to say about the movie.  It has a major ensemble cast, and not any one of the actors (including: Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson, Zoe Saldana, Tracy Morgan, and James Mardsen) had a genuine moment in the entire film, and perhaps that is why about five minutes after it was over, it is hard to revisit any of the movie’s events.

The story centers on Chris Rock’s character, Aaron, preparing for the funeral of his father at his own home.  His entire family will be reunited for the ceremony, and Aaron is nervous about his prepared eulogy, as everyone expects his younger brother (Martin Lawrence) Ryan, the professional author, to do the honor.  The plot kicks into motion due to Zoe Saldana’s boyfriend character, Oscar (James Mardsen) , mistaking a cocaine/acid pill for Valium which causes him to hallucinate and make a scene throughout the afternoon, which includes him opening the father’s casket during the ceremony, and tipping it over—spilling his body onto the floor.  Eventually, Aaron finds more trouble in the form of Frank (Peter Dinklage, of the 2007 version as well), a dwarf on a mission to expose a shocking secret about Aaron’s father unless he receives a hefty payment.  Other chaotic events surround and multiply, putting Aaron at the center, including Ryan’s inability to pay his share of the funeral costs.  All the right elements for a great stage play farce are here, but the movie simply can’t deliver.

Perhaps I’m not exactly fond of any of the comedic talents here, but that shouldn’t matter.  Even if I’ve never found Rock, Lawrence, or Morgan to be all that hilarious, the movie should be about the farce, and the chaos of events that take place.  But I never found myself included in the mayhem.  I observed one-note characters and a handful of big-name actors going through the paces of tired situational comedy, and I didn’t buy any of it—especially once the final eulogy is delivered, the scene couldn’t be more forced and awkward.  Not one plot turn or gag had enough shock, surprise, or wit to fuel my interest, and so this remake left me feeling decidedly blah and unmoved to the core.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Have you seen this movie? Rate it!
Rating: 4.5/5 (2 votes cast)