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Originally published Friday, March 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Wild Hogs" | Biker comedy runs on star power

Talk about the sum of a movie being greater than its parts. The big commercial hook in the biker comedy "Wild Hogs" is the casting of four...

Special to The Seattle Times

Talk about the sum of a movie being greater than its parts. The big commercial hook in the biker comedy "Wild Hogs" is the casting of four high-profile actors playing best friends on a cross-country motorcycle journey to rediscover their lost vitality.

Any one of these guys — John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy — can and has carried a number of films on his own. Together, however, none is individually responsible for occasional lapses in inspiration in "Wild Hogs," yet all four get to reap the benefit of the film's sundry charms.

What this quartet has together on screen might not be described as chemistry. But once one establishes that "Wild Hogs" is not going to be brilliant, it is kind of a kick to see these actors revving up a fairly simple, comic engine.

Movie review 2.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Wild Hogs," with John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei, Ray Liotta. Directed by Walt Becker, from a screenplay by Brad Copeland. 92 minutes. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and some violence. Several theaters.

The script by Brad Copeland (a writer and producer on NBC's "My Name is Earl") begins ingeniously, methodically introducing Doug (Allen), a boring dentist; Bobby (Lawrence), a plumber taking a sabbatical to write a book; Dudley (Macy), a shy computer programmer who falls apart around women; and Woody (Travolta), abandoned by his supermodel wife and suddenly broke.

The four comprise the Wild Hogs, suburban bikers who look both cool and silly in leather. The extent of their dangerous adventures is a weekly drive to a favorite watering hole, where they enjoy a few beers.

That changes when a frustrated Woody proposes they all go on a ride through the Southwest. The adventure works for a time, though there are mishaps. Still, Doug gets away from his problems while Woody gets to mask his own. Bobby leaves behind a complaining spouse while Dudley is utterly predictable in his ineptness.

Things go sour when the Hogs mix it up with the Del Fuegos, a biker gang in New Mexico. Led by the violent Jack (Ray Liotta), the Del Fuegos dismiss the Hogs as poseurs. Woody, with nothing to lose, manages to offend Jack in a major way, forcing the Hogs to seek, but fail to find, shelter in a small town holding an annual festival.

Copeland's gag-oriented screenplay, and obvious direction by Walt Becker ("Van Wilder"), makes "Wild Hogs" graceless but mindlessly entertaining. Well, almost entirely mindless. Tucked between visual punch lines are some thoughts, in this movie concerning weekend warriors on wheels, about what constitutes personal authenticity: leaving ordinary life behind to feel the wind in one's hair, or facing up to a few facts? Or both?

In the end, it's the cast (including Marisa Tomei as Macy's love interest and a cool cameo at the end) that keeps "Wild Hogs" churning along the road. Of the major stars, it's Macy, not surprisingly, who offers the most texture, soul and self-deprecating humor in this light but appealing comedy.

Tom Keogh:

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