It says something about the quality of this mid-life crisis comedy that the star who emerges with the least damage to his credibility is the generally awful Martin Lawrence. Walt Becker’s comedy was an enormous hit Stateside; international audiences appeared to have better taste. Certainly, I avoided it studiously until I spied it on TV the other night. How bad could it be? It’s got an… interesting cast. Maybe it’s a bit like those Eastwood orangutan movies? Come to think of it, they were pretty awful.
You’d have thought Adam Sandler had the market locked up for funny flicks about fretting over lost youth; if not him, then Vince Vaughn. I suppose Hogs skews slightly older, but it’s exactly as successful as any given vehicle for those two performers. The premise is familiar enough, and not necessarily a sign of a dreadful time ahead. Four suburbanites go on a road trip in search of adventure; Billy Crystal did something not so far from this with City Slickers and that wasn’t all bad. And with Tim Allen (yeah, that’s not a promising sign), John Travolta (right, he’s got zero quality control), William H Macy (oh, okay, that’s interesting) and Lawrence (right, back to not good again) there’s at least potential for… unlikely chemistry.
Their characters are tedious walking clichés, however. They have the usual minor disagreements and elements of discontent in their lives. All of which can be sorted out by a good violent encounter with some real bikers. They’ll come through as better men, and none of them will suffer serious injuries. At the same time, they may teach those bullying rednecks a thing or two. Even the character in the worst straits will come out of it all a better, happier man.
None of this would really matter if we got to see some solid funny business, but the jokes are lame and there is a complete absence of comic timing… At least Lawrence going overboard with his motor-mouth shtick provides a relief from the otherwise laboured attempts to elicit chuckles. It’s increasingly clear that Travolta learned nothing from his decade in the dark, as he’ll appear in any old shit and love it (a fair few of which have been big hits but where’s your self respect, John?) At least with Allen, you have a neon sign telling you not to bother (Galaxy Quest aside).
Wasted performers include the ever-lovely Marisa Tomei in a stinker of a girlfriend part (luckily for her, The Wrestler was just round the corner) and poor Ray Liotta, chewing the scenery like there’s no tomorrow. The poor chap’s giving it his all, and you wish he had a better agent. Also under-used are Kevin Durand, M. C. Gainey and a surprisingly off-form Stephen Tobolowsky.
Maybe ever star dies on stage under the watchful gaze of Becker, whose big screen career kicked off with Van Wilder and seems to have been interred since his 2009 reunion with Travolta in Old Dogs. Perhaps television is the place to stay, Walt. Oh, and the cameo at the end is about as lame and inevitable as one would expect from a film this uninspired.