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Wild Hogs

Brian Robbins my have directed the near-$100-million comedy success Norbit in 2007 and produced the audience phenomenon Wild Hogs (which grossed a massive $168 million — stunning for a March release), but he still went to the press to pooh-pooh critics who greeted both films unfavorably. Robbins suggested there was a disconnect between reviewers and the general populace who embraced both films, and such is often the case with runaway audience favorites. Movies like Sister Act and My Big Fat Greek Wedding were not graded favorably, but they lived long enough in the hearts of ticket-buyers to spread good word of mouth and generate favorable box-office returns. But though these films may play well with an audience, a first-run theatergoer is often someone (or a family) popping anywhere from four — at the very lowest — to a hundred bucks just to sit in an auditorium and have a good time. Often, theatergoers are (metaphorically) similar to bar patrons looking for a hook-up in the wee hours of the morning, and thus lowering their standards accordingly. A critic has the responsibility — neigh, the duty — to ignore the baser pleasures and look at something in the cold light of day. Such often casts an unfavorable pale on movies that may have been what rappers refer to as a "strobelight honey." Walt Becker's Wild Hogs is of this ilk. The film assembles four popular leads (Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy), suggests they all have mid-life crises to deal with, and sets them on a road trip on Harleys (for their gang is entitled the "Wild Hogs") to learn their lessons and be sexually harassed by a gay police officer (John C. McGinley) who seems to be in the film merely to deflect some of the obvious homoeroticism of four leather-clad men bonding together. The boys run into the Del Fuego biker gang, headed up by a dangerous leader Jack (Ray Liotta, easily the best performance of the film), who sees through their middle-aged attempts to jump on the back of a Harley and feel some freedom. And when Woody (Travolta) accidentally blows up their bar, it's vendetta time for the Del Fuegos. The men find refuge in a small town, when Dudley (Macy) meets a love interest in Maggie (Marisa Tomei), but the Del Fuegos are looking for blood and won't stop until they find the boys, which leads to the Hogs' moment of spiritual awakening. There is absolutely nothing in Wild Hogs, in fact less than nothing, that cannot be guessed moments before it happens. It is a movie that does nothing but let the audience stay ahead of it from Frame One, and it never tries to be more clever than expected. Such may be why it works for an audience simply looking for a good time. As it is, there's much to laugh at, and no jokes would cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or question their sexuality (and the gay jokes keep on truckin', with the best of the bunch being Kyle Gass's karaoke-hogging crooner, who sings mostly inappropriate songs to a chili cook-off). For the discerning audience member, such easy yuks might be tantamount to treason, although Wild Hogs should have a long life on cable, where the dusty sheen should make it inoffensive. Buena Vista presents the film in a flawless anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary with director Beck and writer Brad Copeland, a "making-of" spot (16 min.), "How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle" (3 min.), an alternate ending (2 min.), deleted scenes (3 min.), and outtakes (3 min.). Keep-case.

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