The years have been very kind to “Wayne’s World”. There have been very few good movies made featuring characters created on “Saturday Night Live” – well, it’s pretty much this and The Blues Brothers – but as the most recent crop of cast members seem more interested in low-key comedy-dramas (“The Skeleton Twins”, recently covered by us, with a review that goes into more detail on this), loose and unfunny improv films (Bridesmaids) and mainstream ensemble comedies (We’re The Millers, Horrible Bosses) it’s a little shocking to look back and see not only what a major studio let Mike Myers get away with, but how popular it was too.
I suppose, as they’re 20 years old, there are a couple of younger readers who might not know anything about these two. “Wayne’s World” is a public-access show made by two best friends, Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey), filmed from Wayne’s parents’ basement. They have a good time and are happy with their minor local celebrity, despite both having low-paying jobs, until one day Wayne meets the beautiful Cassandra (Tia Carrere) at a gig, where she’s playing with her band Crucial Taunt, while at the same time scumbag TV exec Benjamin Oliver (Rob Lowe) is looking for a TV show to exploit.
Everything spins off from that. The fourth wall is constantly broken – for example, Wayne and Garth both talk to the camera, but when the great Ed O’Neill (playing the manager of their favourite donut place) commandeers the camera to talk about a possible murder he committed, Myers walks back into shot to tell him only the two stars get to do that. The lack of interest in doing a “normal” film is apparent in every shot – after a big “emotional” breakup scene, Wayne wanders out onto the street and just does another comic monologue while an extremely elaborate gag is set up around him. And of course, there’s the stream of catchphrases that this film spawned – if you ever went “Not!” after saying something silly, then you might be a Wayne’s World fan.
The music is, unfortunately, terrible. I wasn’t a fan of it when I first saw it at 16, and I’m even less of a fan now – Alice Cooper in the first film, Aerosmith in the second, and “Crucial Taunt” are just like every awful bar-band you’ve ever heard. The annoying thing is, you can’t even fast-forward through the songs because Myers (perhaps anticipating future annoyance) will do little bits of comedy in the middle of them.
Weirdly, the first film seems to have had some pretty big problems. According to Penelope Spheeris, director of part 1, Myers was an enormous pain in the ass to work with; the famous head-banging scene genuinely caused Myers and Carvey a lot of pain, due to retakes; and Carvey’s faux-overbite left him having to put bags of ice against his jaw at the end of every day’s filming.
The second film is, to put it politely, a remix of the first one – the rough outline of the film is the same, the sleazy antagonist (despite being played by Christopher Walken, not Rob Lowe, this time) is pretty much the same, and although a few “hey, just like the first movie” lines were apparently cut in the edit, there are lots and lots of jokes which are the same – like the parody of subtitling in Wayne’s interactions with Cassandra. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s bad (the first film was great, after all), just that it feels a little more like a bonus to the first film than a new thing in its own right.
But I wanted to turn to why I said the years have been kind to it. “Wayne’s World” is about people at the bottom, financially, who aren’t desperate to be super-wealthy, which is amazingly refreshing in 2014. In the first movie, they make $5000 from their show and are ecstatic like they won the lottery; and the concert they put on in the second movie is really just so Wayne can prove to his girlfriend that he’s bothering to do something with his life. It celebrates that working-class culture – rock gigs, hanging out with your friends at a local donut place, creativity for its own sake – and it’s only when they move out of that world that the problems happen.
Everyone seems so excited to be making a movie too. The wonderfully elaborate setups for gags that come half an hour later, after you forgot about them; the way they’ll just stop the movie to do a dance scene or recreate the opening credits from an old TV show; the occasional sense of “they’re really letting us do this?” It’s a heck of a lot of fun. Plus there’s the way they absolutely don’t let audiences forget they’re watching a fake movie for one second (the multiple endings, with none of them being “this is what really happened”, are a particular delight).
Okay, this is just a comedy about two metal-loving friends and their weird adventures, and you could watch and enjoy both films without ever pondering a single political question. It’s even possible that the filmmakers didn’t intend for it to be seen politically too. But looking at it now, and comparing it to comedies made by similar people – the only figures I wouldn’t include in this are Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, whose joint films have overtly progressive political themes – it feels really good to have a film where rampant consumerism isn’t worshipped, and where the objects of mockery are definitely not in on the joke (there’s a Kenny G gag in part 2, and the credits read “KENNY G did not authorize the use of his name or contribute any of the music to this motion picture”).
I’ve really got nothing to complain about. Watch them on the same night (as I did) and you might get a touch weary of the similarities between the two films towards the end, but other than that it’s hard to pick fault. I get the feeling Myers is a difficult guy to get along with, and, voicing Shrek aside, hasn’t been the driving force behind a decent film for more than a decade, but then, he’s only really made one film since 2002’s “Goldmember”, so perhaps he’s happier being Deepak Chopra’s mate.
I think the “Wayne’s World” movies deserve appreciation now even more than then, so if you’re too young to remember them, and have made it through all this guff, go and watch em both.
Rating: thumbs up