Friday, March 9, 2007

WILD HOGS (2007)

Walt Becker .... Director

Brad Copeland .... Screenwriter

Tim Allen - Doug Madsen
John Travolta - Woody Stevens
Martin Lawrence - Bobby Davis
William H Macy - Dudley Frank
Ray Liotta - Jack
Marisa Tomei - Maggie
Peter Fonda - Damien Blade
Ty Pennington - Himself

Wild Hogs is the slap-stick, road-trip comedy about four middle aged men, each saddled with fears and stress that have arisen from their jobs and families, who decide to saddle up their Harley's for a cross-country road trip to escape the fears and frustrations that have bogged down their life. Doug is an over stressed, workaholic with a less than perfect relationship with his wife and son. Woody is married to a super model who's left him, and his business affairs have unraveled to the point of bankruptcy. Bobby is married to a woman who has decided to wear the pants in their family, only because Bobby won't. And Dudley, a computer nerd, is so preoccupied with the artificial world of computers that he's lost touch with the real world, and especially women, whom he cannot talk to.

(Gus pointed out during our radio show that in this movie Tim Allen got to play across from a Woody again with some of the same attitudes. Allen who voiced Buzz Lightyear in TOY STORY (Disney/Pixar 1995, 1999), played across from a toy cowboy named Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks).

As the four prepare for the open road, they give up their cell phones and GPS locators in a slapstick ritual of angst, and then head off down the road to parts unknown, willing to let their wilderness experience bring something good, true, and beautiful back into their lives.

Like many other pastimes, strapping on a bike and riding across country with the wind in your face, occasional bugs in the eye, and an occasional crow in the mouth, is like going on a spiritual retreat. (Really??? Ah, yeah.) They are about confronting our fears, reconnecting with our soul, with God, with nature, with friends and brining balance and perspective back into our lives. It's not unlike what Lent is supposed to do.

As WILD HOGS unfolds, and the true antagonists are introduced, our four riding buddies discover the importance of confronting our fears, going to confession, being humbled, and sacrificially standing together against injustice.

The morning after watching the movie, my wife, Pam picked up a copy of The Michigan Catholic, the weekly paper form the Archdiocese of Detroit and began reading the feature article by our bishop, Adam Cardinal Maida about how we should be observing Lent. (As I write this we're in week 2.) She noticed that Cardinal Maida's meditation explained a great deal about, not only Lent, but also Wild Hogs, although I doubt he's seen the movie. So, thanks to the Cardinal (I've actually lifted some of his lines), here are some of the many parallels, and reminders of how important this season is.

1. To begin his article on Lent, the Cardinal quotes Hosea 2:16-17 that speaks of the Children of Israel, and compares it to our Lenten experience. God through the prophet declares:
"I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart...She shall respond there, as in the day of her youth..."
In Wild Hogs, our four "mild hogs" are led by the filmmakers out into their own wilderness, in an effort to regain their youth.

2. For Lent we voluntarily give up things on which we've relied, we turn our focus on others instead of ourselves, and in so doing confront our fears.

In the movie the four friends give up their cell phones and many of life's conveniences, learn to focus on each other, and confront the fears that a road trip always brings, whether it's rain, bird dung, gay cops, no gas, no water, or mean bikers.

3. During Lent we enter a spiritual desert where we are removed from all the normal noise and distractions that can so easily prevent us from being available to God and others.

In the movie, the Wild Hogs enter a wilderness that removes them from their normal noisy lives and distractions that had prevented them from being available to others they way they should.

4. Lent takes us to a place where we are put in new surroundings and see new horizons. Lent broadens our lives and gives us a deeper understanding of who we are in the world.

Like all road trips, the Wild Hogs are introduced to new surroundings, new horizons and situations. The broadening Western landscapes we see in the film metaphors the broadening of the Wild Hogs' lives and the new vision they gain about who they are in relationship to the world.

5. Lent, through alms giving and prayer, is suppose to force us to think of others, and not so much about ourselves.

The Wild Hogs are forced to give of themselves to their friends, and the townsfolk of Madrid, and be willing to sacrifice themselves for each other and what is right.

6. Lent is a critical formation time with testing, trials, and temptations, just as the Children of Israel and Jesus were both formed through their wilderness experiences.

For the Wild Hogs, their road trip is a time for formation with temptations, trials, and lessons learned.

7. Lent is a time when we rekindle our loving communion with God. In short, the desert becomes a place of "romance."

For the Wild Hogs, riding through the countryside rekindles their friendship with each other, for two of them rekindles their love for their wives, and creates, literally, a romance for the Dudley.

8. Jesus' Lenten experience during his 40 days in the wilderness was where he came to terms with how he would use his power. It was a place of testing or temptation, a place of struggle and purification.

During their road trip, our Wild Hogs, came to terms with how they should use their power and influence to help each other and the people around them. It was a time of testing or temptation, and a time of struggle and purification.

9. Lent, can be about coming to terms with our fears, and knowing how to face them. Oft times during Lent, or other times of testing, we are strengthened so that our everyday frustrations are easier to handle because they're put into the perspective of larger and more significant concerns.

The Wild Hogs, came to terms about the fears in their life, and learned better how to handle their everyday frustrations. Doug learns to have fun (which turns his wife on...regaining his youth), Bobby takes the pants-of-the-family back from his wife who is glad to give them up, Dudley learns to talk-to and court a woman, and Woody confesses his false bravado.

10. Alone in the desert of lent, we come to appreciate the gift and blessing companionship and our need for each other.

Our WILD HOGS, in their desert, come to appreciate the gift and blessing of each other.

11. During lent we fast, and thus identify with the hungry and poor. Fasting also helps us to better appreciate the common grace of the food we eat the rest of the year; and fasting allows us to better appreciate the blessing and our connection with our community and the universe.

In the Wild Hogs, our four-some run out of gas, and soon they are without water, in the hot desert. When they enter the town of Madrid, their entry a local diner in a mad rush for a drink of water, something the community and the universe of nature can provide.

12. Lent also teaches us humility, our need for confession, and encourages us to remove the mask of self-reliance, and become once again our authentic self.

In Wild Hogs each of the guys has a moment where, they confess their short-comings to someone they love and remove their mask of pride. Doug calls his wife and confesses that he's learned the importance of having fun, again. Dudley tells Maggie, before they get serious, that he's not a real biker. Bobby tells his wife he loves her and he's not going to be a wimp anymore. And the most dramatic of the four is Woody's confession that he's been lying to his friends about his wife (who left him), his business (he's bankrupt), and what he did to get the Harley Sportser back from the Del Fuegos, the mean biker gang. Out of Woody's confession, the group decides to do penance, and confront the Del Fuegos who have been terrorizing Madrid. Their courage to not be afraid of what is right recruits the entire down...and even persuades Peter Fonda to walk-on from Easy Rider and set the world straight, again.

All of that then leads us to the story's true moral premise:

Avoiding the wilderness and ignoring our fears
leads to insecurity and stress; but
Venturing into the wilderness and confronting our fears
leads to confidence and peace.

Have a rewarding Lent.

P.S. Gus Lloyd enjoyed the movie because twice a year he and a few buddies rent Harley's and go for a week-end road trip. "This movie is my life," he laughs.

Although I don't ride, I liked the movie because I spent 5 years as creative director of the annual Harley-Davidson dealer training conference (HD University), and spend a lot of time around bikes at rallies and in stores. I came to appreciate a good deal of the Harley culture, but never took up riding because to Harley, my brain was more valuable to them, when it was inside my head.

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