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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Wild Hogs (review)

Something Mild

William Macy, William Macy, Willam Macy! What are you doing in this junk? I thought you were better than this? Are there incriminating pictures somewhere?

I know, I know, I know. It’s a job, this acting thing, and sometimes an actor has to hold his nose and take a less than desirable job just to be working, but honestly, Bill: Wild Hogs? Why would you do this to yourself, and to us?

There are many questions this Disney excrement raises beyond the Mystery of Macy, though that may be the big one. Another: Why would Disney release this under its Touchstone flag, which is supposed to be an indicator that this is a movie for grownups, not for the kiddies, when clearly emotional or psychological maturity is absolutely not a prerequisite for, is in fact a detriment to, enjoying this dreck?

I’ll get back to that.
It would make no sense for me to rail against the idiocy of making a big-budget sitcom and throwing it up on the big screen. People like sitcoms, after all, god knows why — people like stereotyped characters and simplistic plotlines that end with everyone having Learned a Lesson and yet still throwing themselves right back into the same mess that prompted the learning of the lesson in the first place. It’s not idiocy, from the money-side perspective of Hollywood: it’s good business sense. The fact that hardly anyone will see this flick on a big screen is part of the plan — the theatrical release is but a giant advertisement for the DVD release, which will do gangbusters and will mean that everyone will see this on their TVs anyway.

But here’s the thing. This is a sitcom, right? It’s meant to have popular, widespread appeal, and its cardboard characters are meant, in many ways, to be mere stand-ins for the viewer — that’s partly how they can get away with being cardboard: the viewer overlays his own misery and angst onto them.

So this is the big question, then: Are so many American men so oppressed by the “horrors” of modern life — high cholesterol, uppity wives, smartass children, cell phones, boring jobs, the general dead-eyed awfulness of suburbia — that they need a stupid movie like this one to tell them that if they don’t like their lives they should do something about it?

And now we come back to the lack of emotional and psychological maturity necessary for an appreciation of this flick. Cuz here we have four middle-aged guys — John Travolta’s (Be Cool, Ladder 49) wealthy something-or-other (we never learn what he does for a living, he’s just “rich,” which may be the most honest thing about this movie, the remote impossibility of financial comfort for most Americans); Tim Allen’s (Cars, Christmas with the Kranks) dentist with a loving wife and son who thinks he’s a dork; Martin Lawrence’s (Open Season, Big Momma’s House 2) henpecked plumber; and Macy’s (Everyone’s Hero, Bobby) nerdy computer programmer — who hit the road on a biker holiday in order to escape themselves. And through all the usual tripe that accompanies dumb road movies (of course there’s a running-out-of-gas bit, for instance) is all the usual tripe that accompanies, these days, movies aimed at immature males: multiple poop jokes, including a recurring one; ongoing terror of homosexuality featuring the requisite joke of male rape; and an utter inability to take responsibility for their own behavior.

But this is aimed at adults, ostensibly. This is aimed at men who feel as these four caricatures do, that the pressures of modern life — or at least modern life as we’re “supposed” to live it, with corporate jobs and 5,000-square-foot houses, and mass consumerism — are too much to bear but who are completely incapable of seeing that there might be another way to live. Wild Hogs, in which the suburban duds take on a tough biker gang and Learn That Lesson about grabbing life by the horns, is a total fantasy. It acknowledges the disconnect between what’s supposed to make us happy and what actually does make us happy, and it says that there’s nothing you can do about it unless you’re a character in a stupid sitcom of a movie.

How sad is that?

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and some violence

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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  • BruceTurner

    Well! . So much for the `critic’s’ opinion eh, readers?. “Hardly anyone will see this on a big screen”?. Lets read those first week showing figures again?. Hmmm. You got that bit wrong then. I have decided now to listen to these “professional” with the same amount of attention as I do the UK weather forecasters. Interesting to hear .. but I’ll form me own opinion on the day. Good on ye, John, Willy, Martin and Tim. Lets now get script reading for Wild Hogs II?. Great!

  • MaryAnn

    You *should* form your own opinion! Have you seen the film?

    Far more people will see this film on DVD than will ever see it in theaters. $38 million divided by, say, $7.50, is a little over 5 million people. (That’s 1.6 percent of the population of North America.)

  • I can’t disagree with MaryAnn’s critique overall, but I would point to the premise being the stronger indicator of success than the delivery.

    The film itself was not very good, I think that’s pretty clear. No blame on any one faction: the writing missed in places, the directing missed in places, it was overall just sort of lackluster.

    That said.

    It also featured four stars from four separate walks of celebrity life: William Macy bringing in the indie crowd, John Travolta as the middle-age heart-throb, Tim Allen as the funny family man, and Martin Lawrence as one of the more popular black comedians in film. Each of these men brings a unique segment of the audience to the table, and usually in droves.

    And then what happened when we draw these four icons together?

    We tar and feather them.

    They are forced to go through the embarrassing – albeit cliche – situations, and dance and whine and mince in their troubles. There is a segment of our society that thrills at this. Trashing celebrities is like an inside joke. There’s an intimacy there. It’s like watching your best friend get pied in the face.

    And besides, we love to tear down our gods from time to time.

    So was the film good, from a thematic or emotional viewpoint? No. Did it deliver something people wanted to watch? Yes.

    And in the end, that’s sometimes all you need.

  • MaryAnn

    Did it deliver something people wanted to watch? Yes.

    It wasn’t something *I* wanted to watch. And I don’t rate films higher if they are popular — or if I think they will be popular, since I’m often reviewing films before they even open — no matter how fucking stupid they are.

  • I totally agree with you. I guess what I’m saying is that yes, while the film can be judged on its artistic or creative merit, it wasn’t really trying to succeed in that area: it was a play for big money.

    It’s sort of the equivalent of picking on Stephen Hawking for his taste in clothes. Certainly it can be done, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s most likely not an area they were worried about.

  • MaryAnn

    The movie industry is a business, first and foremost. But if we’re going to give a pass to every movie that makes money, or hopes to make money, then there’s no point in film criticism at all.

  • Mat

    What a great movie!! I especially liked the scene where the homosexual cop stopped at their campsite. Sorry you didn’t like it MaryAnn. To answer your question about why Disney apparently released it under Touchstone, which is not for the “kiddies”, I would say it was probably due to the crude and sexual content and some violence. I say this not only because I found it in the movie, but also because that very reasoning is given in the movie data below your post. Huh, I’m surprised you didn’t know that. I am beginning to get the feeling that critic jobs are reserved for acting school flunkies. If Bruce is right and they come out with a Wild Hogs II, I will be sure to go, and I will bring my friends.

  • MaryAnn

    Once again, Mat proves that reading comprehension is a lost art.

    If you didn’t understand the sarcasm in my comment about the Touchstone thing, Mat, then there is no explaining it.

    And please, PLEASE explain what was so funny about the “homosexual cop” — I would love to hear. I’d also love to know what an “acting school flunky” is, how this relates to me, and how you think “critic jobs” are acquired.

    Honestly, I LOVE how the comments I get on my criticism range from “you idiots on teh interweb ain’t real critics” to “you professional critics are out of touch with real fans.” I must be doing something right to piss off people all over the spectrum.

  • Mat

    Thanks for clearing that up Mary Ann. You are correct, I should have known better than to have assumed truth in your comments.

    Let me help you with your reading comprehension of what I wrote by answering some of your questions:

    1) An acting school flunky could be defined as one who flunks out of acting school. I probably should have been more clear on that one, all things considered.

    2) I think critic jobs may be acquired by first flunking out of acting school and then filling what jobs are left; like critic jobs.

    Sorry about all them confusing words and phrases I was throwin at ya. Sometimes I gets a little fancy with my wordin to makes me sounds smart – it’s all I have sound convincin. Know what I mean?

  • MaryAnn

    Okay, Mat, so in your world “flunky” means “someone who flunks out.” Okay, that’s totally removed from the actual definition of “flunky,” but you get points for creativity. So what on Earth leads you to assume that I have ever attended acting school, or ever had any desire to be an actor, beyond your own little weird fantasies? Cuz, you know, nothing could be further from the truth. Which I think could be said of absolutely every film critic ever to walk the earth, because totally different kinds of egotism are at work in these very diverse kinds of movie-loving monsters.

    Perhaps I should give you more bonus points for connecting “failed actors” to “movie critics” — I’ve NEVER heard such a thing before, and it rather defines even the broadest of stereotypes of both actors and film critics, but again: it’s creative. (Usually it’s “film school dropouts” that get connected to “movie critic,” which would, in fact, apply to me. I dropped out of NYU film school in 1988, and have never regretted it for a moment.)

    Also, how do you think I “acquired” my own Web site that I set up myself and have worked my ass off completely on my own to make it any kind of minor force in the world of criticism? Do you imagine that someone had to give me permission and a paycheck? Cuz I wonder how my work can be perceived in such wildly divergent ways by the people reading my site. How can the exact same material be read by some people as “these asshole professionals with their high and mighty bullshit intellectualism…” and by others as “these idiot Internet nerds jerking off in their mothers’ basements…”? It boggles the mind.

  • Mat

    Wow! Can I call it or what? I think it is cute that you consider watching movies and playing on the internet working your ass off though.

    Why is it so hard for you to find the homosexual cop scenes funny? I laugh at the situations that the guys find themselves in with the homosexual cop. Not the homosexual cop himself for simply being homosexaul. The majority of videos on America’s Funniest Home Videos are very similar, to me, but then I do not have a hypersensitivity to homosexuality.

  • MaryAnn

    America’s Funniest Home Videos is utter crap, Mat, though it’s easy to see how someone who finds AFHV funny would also find this movie funny.

    Why is it so hard for me to laugh at the homosexual cop? Because He. Is. Not. Funny. What is funny about him? Please, enlighten me. I’d love to know.

    And pray tell, what is it that you think you’ve “called”?

    Nice, though, how you’ve shifted gears from assuming I’m merely mindlessly “filling” a job that someone else created to ridiculing me for creating my own job. What do you do for a living, Mat?

  • Mat

    That’s your opinion. Mine is the opposite (as is the opinion of many others based upon the program’s longevity).

    Again, it is the homosexual cop SCENES that are funny. Maybe “scenes” was semester two material, but it is more than just one character. The SCENES are funny because of the situations the guys find themselves in; being pursued by a homosexual cop who believes they are homosexual and wants to have an orgy with them. It’s similar to someone who takes a hit to the family jewels from a ricochet – something that millions of people find funny. If you don’t, it’s okay, you’re just a little different.

    To me, dropping out of film school and flunking out of acting school are the same thing, so this is what I “called”.

    Again, you are twisting the facts. Either innocently because you lack reading comprehension skills yourself, or you are guilty of putting words in my mouth to suit your own needs / wants. I am not sure which. I did not ridicule you for creating your own job. I ridiculed you for calling the job of watching movies, writing reports, and possibly writing HTML code as hard work. To me, someone who spends 8 to 10 hours a day setting steel, laying bricks, waitering / waitressing in a restaurant etc. does hard work. Those same people who do it for 12+ hours a day do damn hard work. I don’t fill any of those roles. In comparison I do not do hard work, nor would I be so ignorant or arrogant to claim that I do – even though I do work long hours from time to time.

  • MaryAnn

    To me, dropping out of film school and flunking out of acting school are the same thing, so this is what I “called”.

    (This is the quality of the thinking I am up against.)

    To me, someone who spends 8 to 10 hours a day setting steel, laying bricks, waitering / waitressing in a restaurant etc. does hard work.

    And if you can point to where I said that I am the only person who works hard, I’ll retract it. Of course MANY people work hard. I never said this was not true. Try starting your own business, Mat — even if you’re not doing manual labor, it’s still hard work.

    But when you, Mat, start a Web site from nothing, with no budget and no staff, and build it into a popular and respected site, and after keeping it up for a decade you can say it’s easy, then I’ll believe you know what the hell you’re talking about.

  • “The SCENES are funny because of the situations the guys find themselves in; being pursued by a homosexual cop who believes they are homosexual and wants to have an orgy with them. It’s similar to someone who takes a hit to the family jewels from a ricochet – something that millions of people find funny. If you don’t, it’s okay, you’re just a little different.”

    Yeah, Maryann, *everyone* finds people getting hit in the nuts hilarious! Where’s your sense of humor?

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