WHO RECOMMENDED “WILD HOGS”? This furshlugginer film is poorly conceived and predictably pointless! It’s a biker-comedy (?) with an impressive if motley cast. There are four male leads, two roles filled by a couple of serious actors that I enjoy seeing in just about anything. Unfortunately, a pair of supposedly funny actors that I rarely enjoy in anything occupies the other two roles.
Wild Hogs also boasts an impressive supporting cast with another fave (and underused) serious actor, along with one of my faveravest ever actresses—even if her talent and scenic value are wasted here.
First, some background: Harley-Davidson owner and riders have been socializing with one another since forever! The company itself has had a tumultuous and interesting history. At one point, might have benefited if Brian Wilson had written Little Harley instead of Little Honda! Their official organization is the Harley Owners Groups, abbreviated as H.O.G.; hence they are referred to affectionately as hogs. 1
If you are of a certain age, then you were probably introduced to Harleys in the movie Easy Rider (1969). The two anti-hero-ish protagonists, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), rode customized ’50s Hydra-Glides that were dubbed Captain America and Billy Bike in the movie. 2
The stars of The Wild Hogs: Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, Tim Allen, and William H. Macy.
Ennui as source of creativity
Wild Hogs (2007) does not boast any mythic anti-hero figures, just four middle-aged men who are bored and frustrated with their careers and lives. On weekends, they tool around the local back roads on their Harley-Davidsons, pretending to be a biker gang called the Wild Hogs. These not-so-wild hogs have four members with family issues:
• Doug Madsen (Tim Allen) is a dentist with trouble relating to his son.
• Woody Stevens (John Travolta) is a lawyer being divorced by his lingerie-model wife.
• Bobby Davis (Martin Lawrence) is a plumber with an overbearing but oh so loving wife.
• Dudley Frank (William H. Macy) is a computer programmer afraid to talk to women (hence no family). 3
They set off on a weeklong adventure driving from Cincinnati to the West Coast. Along the way, meet a fun-loving highway patrol officer (John C. McGinley, who gleefully steals his scenes), a real biker gang named the Del Fuegos (led by several middle-aged men who are bored and frustrated with their lives), and an ineffectual sheriff (Stephen Tobolowsky) and his bumbling deputies. 4
Worse than predictable, the movie is d-u-m-b.
The movie is soooooo predictable that the moment Dudley sees Maggie (Marisa Tomei), we know that the likable dweeb will (of course) realize his manliness and (of course) stand up to the Del Fuegos and that he will (of course) score with the beautiful, inexplicably available owner/waitress of the tiny diner in Madrid, New Mexico, who is (of course) a cowgirl at heart.
But the damn movie made us laugh …
The real stars of the movie were bad guy bikers Murdock (M.C. Gainey), Red (Kevin Durand), and the leader of the pack, Jack (Ray Liotta). Here they are at home, oblivious to what’s about to change their whole world—the Wild Hogs!
Which brings up a question
When the Wild Hogs hit the road and immediately run into a horde of low-flying insects and three of them take a few direct hits but Woody avoids the bugs and laughs at his buddies which is always a sign of hubris in bad movies and so, of course, he gets his comeuppance (no spoiler here)
and poor Berni just thought this was too f*cking f*nny laughed LOUD and laughed HARD and laughed LONG while I just thought it was D-U-M-B but laughing is infectious so I laughed first at her when that turned into me laughing with her
and she couldn’t stop laughing and rolled off the couch onto the floor like we used to do forty years ago smoking pot and listening to Firesign Theater (don’t crush that bozo on this bus!)
and I laughed even more because it’s the hardest I have seen her laugh at a movie in years and as I said laughing is infectious and it was wonderful but the movie was still, well, you know … dumb.
But what a great laugh!
Which brings up the question: “Is just plain laughing good for a body?”
Marisa Tomei is the love interest in both the movie Wild Hogs and in my previous essay, On Being Eminently Beddable. A talented actress who can be funny as hell and sexy as all get-out, in this movie she is merely there. Anyone could have played her role, as little is required of her except to look good. Which she always does.
Let’s look to a master laugher
The name Alan Watts should be a household word—especially if you have a former-hippie household. One of the primary people responsible for turning Westerners on to Zen Buddhism, he was a mover and shaker in the American counterculture for decades. He was Dean of the Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco, wrote many books on many topics, and gave countless lectures, many on laughing as Zen meditation. 5
“Laughter is not an intellectual thing. It is an emotional reaction, and the point is the emotional reaction. If therefore a joke is explained to you, you may laugh out of politeness—a throaty laugh—but you will not laugh spontaneously—a belly laugh. Now the object of Zen stories is not to produce laughter, but to produce awakening, clarification, enlightenment, or what is called in Japanese satori.
Satori is like laughter, something that happens suddenly. You don’t, as a rule, slowly begin to laugh and then laugh louder and louder, because you see a joke instantly. A joke is always a matter of an Ah-ha! So in the same way, these stories are intended to produce an Ah-ha! reaction in you of ‘Oh, but I see! Now it’s clear!’
And really they don’t contain any information. Their design is not to tell you something, that is to say not to impart information or knowledge. Their design is to get rid of something, to get rid of a false problem with which you are wrestling so that the problem will disappear as a result of understanding the story.”
In 1968, Watts recorded more than ninety minutes of conversation and narration explaining aspects of meditation. This was pared down by producer Gary Usher and released in 1969 as a two-record album titled WHY NOT NOW (Together ST-T-2R-1025). It was sub-titled “Dhyana – The Art of Meditation.” Each side was one uninterrupted piece of the conversation.
The album included a four-page brochure on meditation by Watts. This album is a rather rare record but has limited appeal to collectors and can usually be found for a reasonable price ($30-50 in near mint condition). Here is an excerpt from the album about laughing with Alan Watts:
Conclusion: laugh lots!
Good, loud, hard, long laughing is good for clearing the mind’s sinuses and unstopping the soul’s bowels. Infectious laughing is better because it’s shared and almost everything is better when someone else is a part of it …
1 The origin of the nickname ‘hogs’ for Harleys is much older than H.O.G. and owes a nod to farming. Read up on racing champ Ray Weishaar and his Wrecking Crew during the ‘Teens and the Twenties.
2 If you are among the unfortunate billions who have never seen Easy Rider, get thee hence to Netlix or Red Box or your local library and order a copy and make sure you have a cuppla six-packs and a joint for watching. Don’t see it alone—the ending will make you cry and no one should cry alone at a movie.
3 Wanna guess which two I don’t care if I ever see in another movie?
4 Del Fuegos is Spanish for ‘the fires’ and correctly should not be referred to as ‘the Del Fuegos’ because that translates as ‘the the fires.’ And that brings up the question as to whether or not the great rock & roll group from the ’50s, the Del Vikings (of Come Go With Me fame), used ‘Del’ Spanishly—in which case they should not be referred to as ‘the Del Vikings’ for the same reason.
“I’m sure many older viewers have had this kind of experience: one first reads Alan Watts when young, got excited, and it led to other writings, to the investigation of traditions, etc., in light of which one’s memory of what Watts said seemed superficial. And now, in later years, one comes to hear or read Watts again and realizes that, actually, he pretty much said it all—and very clearly.” (Guru George)