There are many things I could rant about with regard to the awful ineptitude that is “Wild Hogs.” I could weep that Brad Copeland, a screenwriter with multiple “My Name Is Earl” and “Arrested Development” credits could conceive something this brainless. I could express horror that John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and Tim Allen — three of the least-funny, least-talented comic actors currently working — have been corralled into one film, comprising a supergroup of bad comedy. Or I could wonder why William H. Macy, an acclaimed actor of both comedy and drama and a master of subtlety, would even want to associate with these hams.
But instead, I am going to choose one of the film’s jokes and harp on it endlessly.
In the beginning, each character gets an introductory scene that explains in simple, no-gray-area terms what that character’s problems are. This is necessary so that later, after the four middle-aged guys have taken their motorcycles on a cross-country road trip, they can discover that the experience has magically solved all their crises. (The Tim Allen character actually says, exasperatedly, “What do I gotta do to relate to my son?!” Gee, d’ya suppose the road trip will provide the answer?!!!)
Macy’s scene has his character, a nerdy computer programmer named Dudley, sitting in a coffeeshop with his laptop. It has voice commands: When he says, “Open browser,” the computer does it and replies, “Browser open.” Dudley is awkward around women, and becomes flustered when a beautiful lady sits at a neighboring table. He says hello and smiles at her, and then says, “I’m researching some alternative specs.” The computer says, “Researching alternative sex,” and suddenly Web sites depicting old ladies and farm animals appear, each of them with streaming video and loud old-lady-and-horse sounds. The pretty woman is appalled, and an embarrassed Dudley tries to make the videos stop, but he can’t! He finally pries off the keyboard and starts yanking wires from circuits, and then he accidentally spills his coffee on it and everything blows up.
If you’re a sentient being, you’ve just identified at least a hundred things wrong with that comedy scenario, things that are illogical, impossible, or just plain unfunny. On the other hand, if you’re one of the howling morons who was in the “Wild Hogs” preview audience, you are probably wetting your pants anew at my summary of the hilarity you witnessed the other night.
Anyway, here’s a simple list, off the top of my head, of reasons that scene doesn’t work.
1. Even if Dudley had software with voice recognition (which is possible; he is a computer programmer), I doubt he’d use it in a noisy coffeehouse. Not only would its functionality be impaired by all the commotion, but Dudley is a shy man, too. Why would he draw attention to himself by talking to his computer?
2. Even if he did use voice-recognition software in public, why would he tell a complete stranger, apropos of nothing, that he was researching “alternative specs”? What does that even MEAN? “Alternative specs”? Alternative to what? What kind of specs? That’s utter nonsense! It’s something an idiot writer comes up with because he wants the end result to be “alternative sex,” and he has to think of something that sort of sounds like that.
3. Even if he did use voice-recognition software in public, and even if he did say “alternative specs” for no reason, and even if the computer did misunderstand him and search for “alternative sex” instead, the granny-and-animal sites wouldn’t just pop up by themselves. The search engine would present Dudley with a list of matches to his query, and Dudley would click the link for the one he wanted to look at. (I know this because I have used the Internet. Apparently the filmmakers have not.)
4. Even if he did use voice-recognition, and even if he did say “alternative specs,” and even if the computer did look for “alternative sex,” and even if the sites did pop up automatically, they wouldn’t just start playing videos. Almost all porn sites, seeking to avoid legal troubles, have a portal page first, reminding you that you’re about to access porn and giving you one last chance to go elsewhere. It’s those index pages that Dudley’s over-helpful search engine would have called up, not the actual videos themselves (which you usually can’t see unless you pay for them anyway) (I’m just sayin’).
5. Even if he did use voice-recognition, and even if he did say “alternative specs,” and even if the computer did look for “alternative sex,” and even if the sites did pop up automatically, why couldn’t he turn them off? HE’S A COMPUTER PROGRAMMER. I am merely a computer user, and yet I thought immediately of three possible solutions: close the browser windows; turn down the sound; or, if all else fails, close the laptop. You will note that none of my solutions involves ripping out circuit wires or spilling coffee.
Sometimes I get e-mails from lame people who demand to know, if I think the movie is so bad, could I do any better? Huh? HUH?? The answer is usually yes, I could do better, and so could most people, even children. But to prove that, here is my revision of this scene from “Wild Hogs”:
(DUDLEY sees PRETTY LADY and smiles at her.)
DUDLEY: My computer calls up porn at random, and I am powerless to stop it.
PRETTY LADY: I see.
DUDLEY: (takes gun from coat pocket, shoots self in head)
Dudley and his pals are Cincinnati men with uninteresting lives who ride motorcycles like wannabe tough guys on the weekends. Then they take a road trip to California, which the movie presents by showing them leaving Cincinnati, entering Missouri, and then, in a curious bit of geography, instantly entering New Mexico.
In New Mexico, they run afoul of a REAL biker gang, the Del Fuegos, run by Ray Liotta. One of the Cincinnati guys (John Travolta, specifically) burns down the Del Fuegos’ bar, and then the movie wants us to be supportive as the Ohio foursome flees responsibility for the act. This is an example of the Protagonists Are Blameless philosophy, wherein no matter what the main character does, it is always considered OK. You see it frequently in Disney movies, which this technically is. Later, when the Del Fuegos threaten to burn down a diner in retaliation, the idea is made to seem utterly reprehensible.
Travolta, Lawrence, and Allen all do plenty of their customary mugging, falling, blustering, and cavorting, and director Walt Becker — of “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” fame — encourages them to be as big as possible with it, all the better to overplay the jokes and beat the gags to death. It is not enough that a state trooper should see the four men camping and erroneously believe them to be homosexuals; he should show up again in a later scene, too, and enthusiastically skinny-dip with them. Similarly, why include one hit to the groin in a movie when you can include 50? Furthermore, why watch this film at all when you could stay home and put your head in the oven instead?
F (1 hr., 39 min.; )