About 20 minutes into Walt Becker’s midlife crisis comedy, William H Macy’s eco-conscious computer geek comes out of the forest carrying a plastic bag full of his own shit. Talk about a metaphor! Alas, its contents don’t end up where they belong – smeared over the faces of John Travolta, Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence, Macy’s co-stars in this shambolic tale of suburban milquetoasts taking an Easy Rider jaunt across the United States in search of their lost youth.
In Travolta’s case that’s a particularly tall order, and you only have to watch the scene where his millionaire-on-the-skids goes skinny-dipping to see why. (With moobs like his, you wonder why they even bothered making him a fat suit for the upcoming Hairspray .) Allen and Lawrence don’t fare much better in a feeble farce that seems specifically designed to show the former’s lily-livered orthodontist and the latter’s pussy-whipped plumber in the worst possible light. If the always reliable Macy shines by comparison, it’s only because he takes the time to give his patented ‘scrawny nerd’ a modicum of humanity and pathos: qualities that might be as much use here as a hubcap on a camel, but which at least ensure his character emerges from the movie as something slightly more substantial than just some useless pillock who keeps falling off his motorcycle.
Transparently conceived as nothing more than a City Slickers on wheels, Wild Hogs might have been tolerable had it kept its motor running as it headed out on the highway. Instead this lumbering star vehicle squeals to a halt at every opportunity, each overly extended set-piece – a calamitous night by the campfire, a run-in with Ray ‘Quality Control’ Liotta’s psycho bikers, a Mexican stand-off in a New Mexico hamlet – only highlighting the empty-tank torpor of the whole sorry affair.
Too often scripter Brad Copeland resorts to crude homophobia to plug the gaps, our heroes’ hatred of all things pink milked for one hollow laugh after another. (“Is anyone else getting that pre-rape feeling?” says Lawrence at one point, apparently oblivious to the fact that he’s the one in leather.) And then there’s Peter Fonda, cashing in on his main claim to fame with a cameo so painfully unfunny it makes his Ghost Rider performance look positively Oscar-worthy.
Some moderately amusing slapstick aside, it’s hard to see why this lumbering, spluttering comic vehicle has packed them in across the pond, where it mysteriously topped the box-office ahead of David Fincher’s mesmerising Zodiac. Oh, and wasn’t there already a (superior) shit-in-a-bag gag in Borat?