Sam Strange Remembers: WILD HOGS

 If you're middle aged and discontent, please do not buy a motorcycle.

Life sucks.

Women (for the most part) appear to deal with this realization on an even keel throughout life. This leads to a focus on friendships and ice cream and healthy doses of crying, doses men jump on to make women feel weak and bolster their own self image.

But men (for the most part) have this realization fall upon them suddenly, and they almost never deal with it well. The first inclination in most male minds is to fix what's broken somehow. So after all these 40-70 year old dudes blame their wives and kids for dulling the sharp, dangerous blade they used to be, they attempt some reconnection with that younger self by puffing their balls up and pretending to be awesome in the distant hope that it'll eventually make it so. Of course, such huge balls only trip you. That's why the Elephant Man never completed a 5K.

This is just an unavoidable part of lame male life. As such, it behooves me to exploit these assholes with films that encourage and foster this nonsense. What I'm trying to say is, Wild Hogs wasn't made for you to enjoy but for your parents. And really just your dads. And only if your dad hates movies.

Wild Hogs is a Christian motorcycle gang for old people. There are four. The first is Woody, played by John Travolta. I hired Travolta because no other aged actor so perfectly personifies the lameness mistaken for coolness that plagues many old dudes' behavioral decisions. We used to love to watch Travolta dance. We don't these days. But he dances anyway, often with this knowing smile, like he's doing us this great favor. Since that kind of ignorance pretty much defines this film's mission statement, no other actor could offer such a precise fit for this role.

The next biggest Wild Hog is Tim "The Tool" Taylor. As a dentist with a stable family, Tim's supposed to represent the more relatable Wild Hog since Travolta's such an asserted firebrand. Tim feels bad that he's a dentist and not a real doctor. His kid doesn't want to hang out with him. His wife thinks his fat belly and weird Garry Shandling lips are gross. All this makes Tim feel like less of a real man. Realizing this, he acts out by eating a bunch of butter, landing him the hospital. Real men hate this film.

Woody and Tim are sort of the two main Wild Hogs. They both look kind of middle-aged normal, and act kind of middle-aged normal. Plus, they have a fake rapport since every time Tim addresses Woody, we think we're watching Toy Story.

Then there are two support Hogs. The first is Martin Lawrence, inserted into the group just in case black males go through this midlife crisis stuff as well (we really have no idea). He suffers from an inability to stand up to his wife. That's it. People tell me all the time that Martin Lawrence is hilarious. He proves it in this film by making funny faces when people hit him. Twice.

And then there's Nerdy, played by William H. Macy. Nerdy is supposed to just be the comic relief character, but because I'm a sneaky asshole, he actually reveals the other Wild Hogs for what they are and puts the lie to their bullshit overreaching for masculine verification. He doesn't really have any problems. He can't talk to women, but he's not filled with angst and regret. He's the only Hog who likes himself.

Nerdy's deviations define the line where these old guys become fools. They make fun of his leather helmet? That's the coolest helmet. They look like red-faced, overstuffed sausage casings? He appears healthy and lean. They make fun of him for being gay because he likes to smell their cologne and will get naked without a second thought? He's the only Wild Hog to get laid in the film. When the shit hits the fan, the Wild Hogs hide out in a lady's house, while he walks into the villain's lair with a crowbar and demands conflict resolution. Anyone who sees him solely as the film's goofy character deserves their ignorant discontent.

You may be surprised to find that the Wild Hogs do not take up motorcycles as a response to their masculine issues. They all already have motorcycles when the film begins, which they use to drive around their neighborhood whenever the weather report looks sunny enough (but not too sunny). They even have a lame Applebee's type restaurant reserved solely for dumb asshole weekend warriors. You can have your beer served in a mason jar, with or without carbs.

Since they already have motorcycles, the plot involves a road trip instigated by an especially aching Travolta after his character loses a job we never see him doing, a wife we never get to meet, and a house he doesn't actually appear to lose. We get to know this character only as a profound fuck-up. It actually helps if you view Wild Hogs as a prequel.

Once he talks them all into it, he makes them throw their phones away. After that they just drive for a while. As they drive, I exploit nearly every imaginable scenario in which one Wild Hog could possibly think another Wild Hog is gay. On top of that, they win the stalker-like affection of a gay police officer whose jurisdiction appears to be the halfway point of this film's plot. If Wild Hogs has 100 jokes, 90 of them are gay panic jokes. I do this because for most American men, laughing at someone for maybe being gay is a lot more fun than wondering if everyone secretly laughs at you for the same thing.

So there's one part where they go skinny dipping and some kind of sucker fish keeps messing with their wieners, but only when John Travolta is underwater. And then there's this other scene where they all get Biker massages and Travolta's listening to the Easy Rider soundtrack on his iPod. But because his iPod rests under his blanket, it looks like he's masturbating each time he switches tracks. And then there's the part where he rapes Tim.

Eventually, the Wild Hogs stop at a biker restaurant run by Ray Liotta rather than some dumb television personality cameo. As a legit biker, Liotta automatically smells the City Slickers bullshit oozing off these clowns. It irritates him, so he cuts Martin Lawrence's throat, causing the Wild Hogs to drive off screaming while Liotta does that really open mouth laughing thing he often does.

But as Wild Hogs'resident fake rebel, Travolta sneaks back and disables Liotta's whole motorcycle fleet. Due to a fake rebel-related accident, however, he inadvertently blows up not only the fleet but the restaurant as well, killing most of Liotta's men and making him very angry.

Now the three remaining Wild Hogs are on the run. They find a small town filled with hicks scared to death of Liotta's gang. Once the town hears what the Wild Hogs did, they raise the Hogs as heroes and everyone gets drunk. Nerdy falls in love with Marissa Tomei, who seems to exist in films solely to make losers think they have a shot at some hotness.

The Hogs slowly realize that this town is the free haven from adult responsibility they've been looking for all along. Here they can be heroes and no one will ask them to eat fat free cream cheese or go jogging. Here they truly are Wild Hogs. They decide to stay forever. Which is exactly what happens. What remains of Liotta's gang shows up, reinforced by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Mr. T, Dr. Drew, Knight Rider, and Joan Rivers. While Tim and Woody hide out, Nerdy bravely confronts them, only to be hung from a tree until dead. Tim comes up with a plan to leap from his motorcycle onto Nerdy's body, thus freeing it from the tree in time to save his life. His attempt fails and Liotta stomps his head in. That leaves only Travolta, who runs screaming from house to house as the locals turn from him in terror of their own. Once cornered, Liotta shoves a spit up his butt and an apple in his mouth and feeds Wild Hog to the whole village. You may find this ending tragic. But never forget: In the end, the Hogs died like men. Except for Travolta. He died like a hog.

(three stars)