"Party Time! Excellent!": On the Couch with Wayne's World
"Or imagine being magically whisked away to...Delaware. Hi, I'm in Delaware."
Party time, excellent indeed. Twelve years after the first Saturday Night Live film, the landmark buddy comedy/musical The Blues Brothers, cinema was introduced to another duo with music in their hearts and jokes on their minds - Wayne's World, the adaptation of the popular SNL sketch starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. Very much of its time but also timeless, 1992’s Wayne's World, along with the sequel released the next year are two of the funniest comedies of their decade.
It can be risky business to adapt an essentially plotless comedy sketch into a feature length picture but Wayne's World managed to do it well. Thinking back, the story that screenwriters Mike Myers along with Bonnie and Terry Turner, crafted is simple enough to be relatable with comedy that has stood the test of time. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar host a public access late night talk show out of Wayne's basement and have quite the cult following in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Illinois. That show has gained the vampiric attention of TV producer Benjamin Oliver, Rob Lowe in a hilariously slimy performance; he wants to purchase the show, add a big sponsor and make his fortune off of the work of these two ridiculous metal heads. Completely oblivious to Benjamin's devious intentions, they sign up wholesale, barely reading the contracts and much hilarity ensues.
Sure, Myers and Carvey are great here but it's the supporting cast that really impress here. Baberham Lincoln herself, Tia Carrere shines as Cassandra, lead singer for Crucial Taunt, a local band with some serious chops. Cassandra could've easily been a joke stock side character/love interest but she handles the role with class and skill. That's actually her singing “Ballroom Blitz” and “Why You Wanna Break My Heart” with the band, two songs that have made their way onto many mixtapes over the years. They're the kind of fictional band that you wish were a real thing, as they have a great presence and some catchy tunes (in fact I'm listening to them as I type this). Elsewhere we have the aforementioned Rob Lowe as Benjamin, who if he were an ice cream flavor would be Pralines & Dick. Lowe gives a very funny performance as Benjamin, doing everything he can to steal Cassandra away from Wayne throughout the course of the picture.
Other great supporting characters include Brian Doyle Murray as Noah “Spinchter Boy” Vanderhoff, owner of a chain of video arcades (remember those?). He's the sponsor of the newly minted Wayne's World TV show and gets memorably torn apart during his first interview on the program, unbeknownst to him. Classic late 80s/early 90s slimeball Kurt Fuller (Ghostbusters 2) also shows up to direct the show and learn that platonic love can exist between two grown men. The big scene stealer however has got to be Ed O’Neill (Married with Children, Modern Family) as Glen, manager of the local donut shop where Wayne and Garth spend most of their time. His asides to the camera are a sight to behold as he's clearly unhinged but his deadpan delivery sells the jokes at hand.
Wayne's World was also, at the time, one of the most successful studio films by a female director. Penelope Spheeris, who was best known for The Decline of Western Civilization documentary trilogy, she was chosen by Lorne Michaels to direct the film, Myers objections be damned. They clashed constantly during production, arguing over everything from line deliveries, to the final cut of the film, to even the catering on set. Myers is infamously hard to work with and even though Spheeris did a fantastic job with the picture and dealing with him, making a huge hit in the process, she was still barred from directing the sequel thanks to Myers, and unfortunately it shows.
Wayne's World 2, released the next year loses a lot of the inspired choices by Spheeris and because of that it doesn't feel as fresh as the original. It's a shame, but if you can accept the sequel for what it is; a rushed into production effort to capitalize on the first film’s success, it's easy to have a lot of fun. This time around Wayne and Garth are a little bit older and a little bit wiser and have decided to put on a rock festival called Waynestock with all the biggest names in rock and roll like Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Van Halen, and an old man fashioning a canoe out of a log. It's a more high concept and ridiculous plot than the original’s story but the pace and the jokes help it become a good companion piece to the first film.
Again it's a great supporting cast that keeps the movie afloat. Tia Carrere returns and has found great success since the first film, currently working with her record producer Bobby, played by Christopher Walken. Walken crushes it in the villain role here, totally one-upping Wayne at every turn. It's also great to see Chris Farley in a supporting role, bringing the laughs as a roadie and friend of Wayne's. We first meet him at a fundraiser for the concert being held at Comrade's, a Communist night club and one of the best visual gags in the film. Also on display is Charlton Heston in a memorable cameo as a gas station attendant where he replaces an inferior actor. The action all ends with a riff on the ending of The Graduate with Wayne reaching Cassandra from Bobby which actually spoiled the ending to that film for me years before I even knew what The Graduate was.
On the original DVD release Wayne's World 1&2 were billed as ‘The Complete Epic’ and it's hard to argue with that. These are two films that hold up after all these years, still funny, with jokes, music, and performances that stick with you. I've seen the original more times than I can remember and it's one of the few movies, along with Spaceballs, that I can recite off the top of my head, and although the sequel isn't as good, Wayne's World 2 is a solid comedy in its own right. So next time you're in the mood for some classic comedies that don't try too hard, give The Complete Epic a watch, you won't be denied.