|'); document.write(''); //-->|
You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl."
There haven't been very many good or even memorable movies made from skits directly transplanted from Saturday Night Live, even though a pretty high number of alumni have gone on to film careers, even stellar ones. The Wayne's World running skit wouldn't have seemed a likely springboard for a feature, but smart packaging and producing (mainly retaining Mike Myers not only as onscreen talent, but writer as well) resulted in a pair of superior comedies. Both are now available on Blu-ray disc. Of course, the 1992 production date on this show might seem like ancient history these days ... when's the last time we heard from the multi-talented Dana Carvey? (Actually, last year he starred in an HBO special.)
Wannabe misfits Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) run a ragtag cable access show from the Campbell family basement. Fueled solely with their own demented suburban-loser wit, the show is a local success until promoter Benjamin Oliver (Rob Lowe) snags it as a marketing vehicle for a proprietor of arcade halls, Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray). Ben also tries to co-opt Mike's hot new girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere), a rock 'n' roller from Hong Kong. Kicked off his own show for dissing the sponsor, Wayne's only hope of keeping Benjamin from grabbing his girl is to interest legit record producer Frankie Sharp (Frank DiLeo) in Cassandra's career.
Wayne's World succeeds because it comes at its subject from all sides, nailing its comedy targets square on and not sacrificing its essential sweetness. Myers and Carvey understand their characters well and keep them consistent. Wayne and Garth are well-intentioned suburban guys who didn't make it in school and are trying to have lives beyond dead end fast-food jobs. They're too ambitious to be losers, but their dreams are based on infantile obsessions with rock musicians like Alice Cooper, who makes a nice personal appearance. Garth suffers more severely from ingrown self-esteem, but Wayne too hides his personal sense of worthlessness behind an energetic flood of affectations and buzz-phrases. They react to humiliating circumstances with cheerful grins and poses meant to deflect the pain ... the key to their place in the universe can be seen in their habit of abasing themselves before any celebrity who crosses their path: "We're not worthy!" In short, they're neither perfect nor cruel, and come off as completely loveable.
Moving to comedy features after a career mostly in rock-oriented docus, director Penelope Spheeris has done a creditable job keeping up the spirit of the piece. The spirit of the original has been retained, with its constant flood of extraneous gags, silly dream sequences, product-placement satire, and Wayne and Garth addressing the camera directly.
It's the basic truth of the character setup that persists ... Garth and Wayne remind us not only of amusing friends in school, but ourselves. Who hasn't driven in a car, singing like an idiot to your favorite song, but feeling like a million dollars 'cause you're with friends and having a great time?
Good casting helps considerably. Tia Carrere is a forthright and uncomplicated love interest. Rob Lowe's particularly slimy villain plays off his real-life bad boy image, more than anything particularly evil he does in the film. Chris Farley does a nice bit as an exposition-loaded security guard. Faces like Ione Skye, Donna Dixon, and Meat Loaf pop up, and Robert Patrick provides a nice sting as a motorcycle cop, in a deft reference to Terminator 2.
A year later in their saga, Wayne and Garth are now living in loft space instead of at home with their parents, but their cable show is still a local anomaly. An even shadier promoter, Bobby (Christopher Walken) is courting Wayne's girlfriend Cassandra. Wayne is contacted in his dreams by Jim Morrison (Michael A. Nickles) who tells him to promote a big rock festival in Aurora, with huge name acts like Aerosmith. Following Morrison's cryptic instructions, Wayne and Garth take a trip to England to collect legendary roadie Del Preston (Ralph Brown), who also has been receiving telepathic messages from the late lead singer of The Doors. They hold a fund raiser at a Communist-themed nightclub, but all looks grim as Wayne alienates both Cassandra and Garth (who's seduced by hot-chick Honey Horneé (Kim Basinger) to kill her husband). Will nobody buy a ticket to their self-styled "WayneStock".
With the characters established and the basic 'world' already delineated, one would expect Wayne's World 2 to just be more of the same, but some real thought was put into their second outing. The plot is more complicated this time around, but the focus remains on the two central personalities, putting Myers through some interesting paces with a Twin Peaks-like hallucination (a half-naked Indian leads the sleeping Myers to see Jim Morrison), and turning sexpot Kim Basinger loose on the utterly defenseless Garth. The satire of commercial Rock 'n' Roll is even more accurate. Our heroes confronted by moronic fans and saddled with a burned-out 'rock legend' who has a great superstar scrapbook but tends toward senility. Christopher Walken's character is nicely underplayed, the gags come faster and mostly as fresh. Even when the material is obvious (the Village People routine) the enthusiasm is enjoyable. The film even drags Charlton Heston in for a particularly hilarious gag. Only at the very end does the fun sag, when the movie parodies of The Graduate and Thelma & Louise fail to build into anything. But who's perfect?
Although Savant has little use for the infantile poo-poo humor level of Myers' Austin Powers, he finds both Wayne's World movies the equivalent of Bob Hope or Red Skelton vehicles. This was one favorite of my son's that I didn't have to pretend to enjoy.
So to keep it all straight, Wayne's World = Alice Cooper. Wayne's World 2 = Aerosmith.
Paramount's separate Blu-rays of Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 look fine in HD, especially if your last memory was a VHS tape. Colors are excellent and Ms. Spheeris' no-fuss shots are never cheap looking.
Perhaps realizing that the parade's gone by for prime Wayne's World fandom, the Blu-ray doesn't recycle the clever menu gags that came with the DVD Special Edition from 2001 -- I reviewed it just a month before 9-11. Penelope Spheeris' commentary sticks to practical problems. To deal with the Myers and Carvey entourage and other 'helpers' from the TV show, she set up a "TV village" to let them watch the video tap but keep them off the set proper. Wayne's World Extreme Close-Up is a by-the-numbers EPK featurette with the actors and director explaining the evolution of the TV skit and its transformation to the big screen.
I sampled Stephen Surjik's track on the sequel in half a dozen places, and everything he had to say was pretty predictable, like 'Mike really wanted the Kung-Fu parody', or 'Chuck Heston was a nice guy.' The best gag on the disk is the clever menu setup, which mimics a cable channel guide. A bunch of provocative titles like Fun with Fire slip out of our reach, but we are allowed to select cable programs like The Brady Bunch, an exercise program, or an Elvis movie, all available or soon to be available from Paramount home video, naturally. Actual little clips pop up when we make our choice ... very cute.
Wayne and Garth are still amusing guys, even though aspects of the show will seem immediately dated: when Rob Lowe needs to make an urgent call, he asks his bedmate to pass him the phone extension.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Reviews on the Savant main site have additional credits information and are often updated and annotated with reader input and graphics. Also, don't forget the
2009 Savant Wish List. T'was Ever Thus.