Illiteracy and philistinism, America's most unremitting woes in the age of homogenized tube culture, could scarcely have found two wittier, more delightful exponents and defenders than Saturday Night Live's Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, the hyper-juvenile, heavy-metal yarn spinners whose late-night, public-access cable show, direct from Wayne's basement in Aurora, Illinois, is called - appropriately - Wayne's World. As seen on SNL, Wayne's World is unpretentiously TV-oriented parody, part and parcel as to why these bros are such adept observers of pop culture; the gags brilliantly interconnect the blandness of the medium with the Wayne generation's impish, wide-eyed unpredictability. (For instance, on last year's "Ten Best Babes" list they included Irene Ryan, otherwise known as Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies.) Unlike movie prototypes Bill and Ted, Wayne and Garth aren't simply surfer-speaking dude-heads fighting for the right to party - of course, the initial horseplay suggests that's all they are. But they're chroniclers and critics, too; and as embodied by SNL's Mike Myers (as Wayne) and Dana Carvey (as Garth), they evince a kind of...well, genius.
Now that there's the movie, no doubt you Wayne-o-philes and Garthians out there are wondering how well the rattle-tattle format of TV's Wayne's World survives the imposition of a movie plot. The answer is simple and satisfactory: there isn't much of a plot to speak of. Wayne and Garth transmit their underground cable show lambasting the culture, then a slick-haired TV exec (Rob Lowe) attempts to exploit Wayne's World by turning it into a soft-edged, mainstream chat show. On their fighting road back to the basement, Wayne falls for Cassandra, a Cantonese pop singer (Tia Carrere), while Garth lasciviously ogles a luscious "Dreamwoman" (Donna Dixon) who works at their favorite doughnut shop. Needless to say, they overcome and party happily ever after, though not before two other, quite funny, alternative endings have been played out.
Aside from their trademark lingo (such as the emphatic "...NOT!" immediately after each outrageous statement) and their atonal jingle ("Wayne's World! Wayne's World!/Party time! Excellent!"), the movie features many peaks of invention and a few valleys. High points are: Wayne and Garth's extended lip-synching of Queen's megacamp "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the dudes inside Wayne's aquamarine Pacer; Wayne's romantic wooing of Cassandra in pidgin Cantonese (with subtitles!); Wayne and Garth traveling to Milwaukee to kneel before Alice Cooper (and before that, re-creating - literally - the title sequence and song from Laverne & Shirley, "We're Gonna Do It"); Garth falling for Dreamwoman, saying if she were president, she'd be called "Babe-raham Lincoln"; Wayne's obsessed ex-girlfriend making various appearances, each to the muted strains of Psycho's slasher motif; Garth whistling Star Trek's theme on a starry night; a seduction scene subtitled, "GRATUITOUS SEX SCENE," followed by a teary monologue labeled "OSCAR CLIP"; and a brilliant parody of commercial advertising where Wayne and Garth point to each product - the Pizza Hut, Reebok, Doritos, Pepsi, and Nuprin labels prominent - before consumption or application.
Oh, and before I forget, there's a line that belongs as much to Wayne's World as, apparently, to the popular single-fisted gabmeister, Neil Rogers. When Wayne and Garth decide to order take-out Chinese, they suggest "Cream of Some Young Guy" to Cassandra. Well, wouldn't you know it: Neil Rogers has used that one before on the air. (I daresay most people would still take Wayne's World over Neil's.)
The Lowe points of the movie are predictably Rob's, who, wearing the loosest-fitting scarecrow finery of a gigolo on Rodeo Drive - and so much oil on his slicked-back hairdo as to recall the Exxon Valdez spew over Alaska - still has trouble convincing us that he can act and cover his Atlanta birthday suit simultaneously. Whenever he's on, Wayne's World comes to a soporific halt. In this context, it's reassuring to gaze at Donna Dixon, a real beauty with no narcissism.
But it's Myers and Carvey who give this idiot-box discourse its punch, gleefulness, and hilarity. With his unkempt, dark mane and brew belly prominently displayed, Myers (a co-writer of the script) times Wayne's becomingly dim-witted smile almost too perfectly to coincide with often scathing observations. And yet, passive-aggressively delightful though he is, Wayne is no match for the diminutive, ectomorphic Garth, played by blond, bespectacled Carvey with an encyclopedia of hyperactive ticks, winces, pursed-or-bitten lips, and shuddering glances. Carvey's geek gobbledygook takes its place among the classic sparring-partner banter of the past; I doubt Stan Laurel was a better straight man.
Lorne Michaels, who produced the movie, has brought us many good things on TV aside from Saturday Night Live - HBO's The Kids in the Hall is also his. If this sweet and ultimately clever assault on our contemporary, dulled, suburban aesthetics wins raves at the box office (there's reason to assume it will), this "totally amazing excellent discovery" could mark a first for this critic - a sequel to welcome with open arms and bended knee.
Directed by Penelope Spheeris; written by Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner; with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, Tia Carrere, Donna Dixon, Meat Loaf, and Alice Cooper.
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.