Wayne's World (1992) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sex-related dialogue and language
Running time: 94 min.

Cast: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, Tia Carrere, Kurt Fuller, Brian Doyle-Murray, Lara Flynn Boyle, Colleen Camp, Frederick Coffin, Lee Tergesen, Dan Bell, Michael DeLuise, Sean Gregory Sullivan, Ed O'Neill, Donna Dixon, Alice Cooper, Frank DiLeo
Cameo: Chris Farley, Meat Loaf, Robert Patrick, Ione Skye
Penelope Spheeris
Screenplay: Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner
Review published June 23, 2008

1990s "Saturday Night Live" fans will no doubt recognize Wayne's World from the many appearances in skit form -- a staple practically every week of the Mike Myers (So I Married an Axe Murderer, Austin Powers) and Dana Carvey (The Master of Disguise, Opportunity Knocks) era.  Unlike many of the other skits on that show that have been made into films, the characters of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar actually have distinct and relatively defined personalities, enough to give their characters room to breathe and grow in a full-length feature film. 

The premise of the SNL skit is that two slacker metal-heads from Aurora, Illinois appear on a local access channel with a show called "Wayne's World", where they attach witty and crude commentary surrounding whatever's going on in their lives, neighborhood, or just in pop culture in general.  The film expounds upon the idea by casting Rob Lowe (About Last Night, Spy Who Shagged Me) as Benjamin Kane, a sleazy TV exec who sees the popularity and appeal of the modest show and plans to exploit these neophytes to big business television for all they're worth.  However, in the process of going from self-produced local access to larger market commercial TV, the boys find that they're expected to change the show in ways that make them want to hurl  Meanwhile, Wayne hooks up with Cassandra (Carrere, True Lies), with a hot babe lead singer of an up-and-coming rock band that Kane just so happens to take an interest in, and not just the band, but Cassandra herself.

Truth be told, Wayne's World's plot, co-written by Mike Myers, is scant and hardly dealt with for long durations, but the comedy, while hit-or-miss depending on your level of expectations, is always inventive and energetic enough to keep your attention.  Pop references abound, which has dated the film over time, but does up the nostalgia factor for those who grew up in the 1990s.  Unlike other joke-a-second screwball comedies, Wayne's World threads the line between straightforward story and "breaking the fourth wall" zaniness that plays directly to us in the audience for laughs.  Self-reference is exhibited throughout, as the characters themselves are frequently aware they're in a movie, talking to the camera for our benefit despite it having no actual place in their story.

Although many of the jokes fall flat on their face, the comedy ultimately works as a whole due to the fact that we like Wayne and Garth as comic personalities, such that we enjoy just following them around and seeing how they react to the ever-changing stimuli of their crazy (and utterly mundane) surroundings.  They bring the party wherever they go.  This film also gets my vote for the most enjoyable way to inject product placement in a film, as the boys expound on how they aren't sell-outs in the story, all the while hamming it up for our benefit while trying a variety of consumer products in TV commercial style.

Hawaiian Tia Carrere ('Schwing!') may not generate nearly the laugh quotient, but this may be the only movie to fully capitalize on her talent as a comedic actress and singer.  Cameos abound, including an Alice Cooper concert performance (not music to my ears) that is mostly a set-up for the boys to deliver their famous catchphrase, "We're not worthy!"  Sometimes things are thrown in just for the hell of it -- Robert Patrick reprises his role (sort of) as the T-1000 from T2, pulling Wayne and Garth over in their car and scaring the bejesus out of them by flashing a picture and asking sternly, "Have you seen this boy?"

Wayne's World isn't tight or focused enough to proclaim of high quality, but its slacker approach to comedy fits right in with the nature of their personalities.  One senses that many of the scenes of the film were conceived after they had started to roll film, but gems like the car group sing-along to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", Chris Farley's crazy mannerisms (his first role in a film) as an informative security guard, Garth's dream sequence whereby he croons to Donna Dixon using Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady", and Wayne prancing around the apartment with a wedgie trying to make Cassandra laugh while she converse on the phone are just several memorable moments that you just can't convey in a polished script. 

The film was born from skit comedy, and it plays much like one, both good and bad (mostly good), much of the time.  Leave critical instincts at the door and join in on the fun -- as Wayne and Garth would say, it's "Party time! Excellent!"

-- Followed by Wayne's World 2 (1993).

 Qwipster's rating:

©2008 Vince Leo