It was almost 40 years ago that Easy Rider made a motorcycle road trip the ultimate baby boomer emblem of freedom and adventure. Now John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence and Tim Allen play the uneasiest of riders in this uninspired and uninspiring formula comedy about four middle-aged friends who take their motorcycles on a road trip to find their sense of adventure.
Each of them is feeling that his life was not what he expected. Travolta is Woody, who has not told the others that he is broke and his supermodel wife has left him. Allen is Doug, a dentist, whose son doesn’t think he’s cool. Macy is Dudley, a shy geek who proudly sports a new tattoo — the Apple logo. And Lawrence is Bobby, a henpecked plumber. You know, born to be mild.
So, a bike trip from Cincinnati to California seems like just the thing to put them in touch with their inner burning man. Their droopy, mundane, and cheerless encounters include a flaming marshmallow, a cop who thinks they are a gay foursome and wants to join the fun, a bull who doesn’t appreciate being slapped, a plastic bag filled with excrement, some mean bikers led by Ray Liotta, and the sweet little country town they terrorize. Guess who will have to ride to the rescue?
The film consistently wastes even the modest opportunities it presents. When Dudley is invited to dance with the pretty owner of the town diner (Marisa Tomei, another on the list of “What are THEY doing in this movie?” actors), he has to get a quick lesson from Mr. Saturday Night Fever himself, John Travolta. Not only does a one-minute lesson somehow turn the can’t-even-speak-around-females Dudders into Arthur Murray, but the dance lesson itself is a complete waste of time, nothing more than another manliness joke.
There is no chemistry or even connection between the four co-stars, who look at each other as though they can’t wait to get back to their trailers. A last-minute appearance by a surprise guest star may save the day for the four friends, but it comes nowhere near saving the movie. The reality-show parody over the credits merits a smile, but the chance to leave the movie behind will produce a bigger one.
Parents should know that the movie has crude humor, including strong language and sexual references. An entire section of the movie is intended to find comedy in the main characters being grossed out by being thought to be gay and in the portrayal of an enthusiastic gay character who believes he may have found some action. Characters drink and smoke. There are some crude sexual references and there is a good deal of potty humor. Characters are in comic peril and there is some violence, including characters being tossed on the horns of a bull and being beaten up. There is also a good deal of macho posturing and some misogynistic humor.
Families who see this movie should talk about when it can important not to feel “too safe.” What did each of these character have to prove to himself or to someone else? Why were they friends?
Families who enjoy this movie will appreciate the better City Slickers.