Wild Hogs Blu-ray Review

I was chatting with a fellow editor from another website earlier today about the need to get out of the daily grind next year for a “man outing.” An adventure for us married guys who are so bogged down in family and work that joining the weekend warriors is even out of the question. We need that annual pilgrimage somewhere, anywhere else, where we can reconnect with our free spirited adolescent alter-egos.

Maybe being at this place in life is why I connected so clearly with Wild Hogs and laughed at clichéd humor I might otherwise have shunned. Like I and scores of other married men, Woody (John Travolta), Dudley (William H. Macy), Martin Lawrence (Bobby) and Doug (Tim Allen) were once at the top of their game in college, living life to its fullest with no worries or responsibilities. Daily decisions consisted of what motivation was required to drag oneself from bed, what dining hall to grab lunch from, and where to get beer for a night of partying ahead.

Then they got married, entered the full-time work force, bought a house and had kids. Over time their manliness withered to a shadow of what it once was. Doug hasn’t left the boundaries of his town in over 12 years and embarrasses his son. Bobby takes orders from his wife like she’s the Commander-in-Chief. Dudley can’t speak a complete sentence to a woman. And Woody’s dream world of a model wife and riches has crashed, leaving him alone and without purpose. So they form the Wild Hogs biker gang as a weekend escape from their lives, but even that is eventually deemed unmanly.

Despite their monotonous rut called life, a spark still burns within each of them to reignite their glory days, and it takes an absurd improvised road trip from America’s heartland to the Pacific Coast to turn that spark into a roaring flame. Along the way, the Wild Hogs run into an overly gay police officer, agitate a 50+ member biker gang led by badass Ray Liotta, and save an idyllic town from certain pillaging. As expected, Woody learns the lesson of friendship, Dudley learns to woo women (the lovely Marisa Tomei, no less), Bobby stands up to his argumentative wife, and Doug finally impresses his son. Their weeklong trip is riddled with enough gay, middle-age and physical humor to build a stand-up routine from. The Three Amigos would be proud of the predictable adventure, and then jealous, of course, because their organic horses can’t be revved. But above all else, the Wild Hogs rekindled their free spirits to feel like men with purpose again, and that’s a message men everywhere should respond to even if the jokes never hit home.

Buena Vista’s Blu-ray Disc treatment of Wild Hogs is a mixed bag depending on which presentation point is most important to you. The widescreen 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer is sharp throughout with only moderate drop-off during indoor scenes. The colors are definitely saturated for more pop and there’s a small amount of film grain present, though nowhere near enough to be distracting. Complimenting the solid video performance is an equally impressive 5.1 uncompressed 48 KHz/24-bit audio mix that showcases the film’s two greatest aural assets: the roar of bike engines and well-timed embedded songs. I especially enjoyed several moving bike scenes when the engines swirled around the entire soundstage. There’s even a powerful explosion mixed in for a quick change of pace, though I suspect it’s the Harley engines that owners of this disc will be cranking the volume up well past reference level.

The extra features are all also available on the standard DVD, save for Buena Vista’s exclusive Movie Showcase feature. The difference is they’re presented in 1080i video as opposed to 480p so viewing them never feels like being ripped out of the high definition experience, even if they feel light on content.

First up is a Feature-Length Commentary with director Walt Becker and writer Brad Copeland. I don’t know if an intern format to give these guys they’re morning coffee or not, but listening to them talk drains any fun out of a room. There are lengthy moments of silence, and when either of them speaks, it’s in a lone monotone voice with little to no enthusiasm whatsoever. Even though Becker especially has some interesting back story to tell, it isn’t worth sitting through this barren commentary to hear.

Bikes, Brawls & Burning Bars: Making of Wild Hogs (16:19) is light on fluff and heavy on interesting material, such as each actor’s riding experience with varying degrees of limited and/or outdated experience. The only knock against this piece is an over-reliance on film clips that eat up approximately a third of the running time. How to Get Your Wife to Let You Buy a Motorcycle (2:49) is a collection of tips from Jack Gill, the stunt coordinator, that will convince your wife riding a bike is good for you.

A small handful of Alternate Ending/Deleted Scenes (4:11) with optional commentary by Copeland and Becker introduce the awful original ending and scene extensions without a soundtrack or much humor, for that matter. There are a few laughs to be found in Outtakes (2:34) which is the typical collection of quickly cut on-set antics.

The surprising addition to this disc airs before the feature film in the form of a teaser trailer for the Blu-ray Disc release of Ratatouille. No shelf date is given, but this is a sure-bet sign it’s on the way sooner rather than later.

As motorcycles are the modern day version of horses, Wild Hogs is the modern day version of The Three Amigos. In some respects it feels almost like a sequel, and I suspect anyone who connected with the Amigos will connect similarly with these middle-aged buffoons. Thanks to them, this editor craves a road trip more than ever.

– Dan Bradley

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