Wayne’s World (DVD)

And now I will show you the most excellent way…

Some people clamor for Citizen Kane on DVD. Some for the Godfather movies. Others, for classics like Dr. Zhivago. Eh. Those are classics and all, but I prefer to spend my money on movies that will entertain me, that I’ll have fun watching, and that I’ll want to see over and over and over. That may make me a philistine, but I really could not care less. Last year, amid all the hoopla of other, bigger films, I was thrilled to receive Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Yeah, sure, this fall the Godfather movies are coming (and I’m definitely going to get them…so I can watch them for the first time), but you know what really makes me happy? The original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie will be released in August. The Wayne’s World movies were two others that were on my “release them on DVD now!” list, and Paramount has done them justice with two most excellent DVDs. The extras may be a little light, but I’m not complaining. Party on!

Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) are two metalheads living with their parents in Aurora, Illinois. They produce a public access cable show called “Wayne’s World,” a free-association mélange of their…unique blend of humor. Things are fine — nothing gets this duo down for long — but what they really want to do is earn a living with “Wayne’s World.” They get their chance when a devious producer, Benjamin Oliver (Rob Lowe), signs them to do the show as a promotional tool for Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle Murray), the owner of a chain of video arcades who is very out of touch with the kids who visit his establishments. Wayne isn’t very happy turning into a corporate shill. He also isn’t happy that Benjamin is putting the moves on his new girlfriend, musician Cassandra (Tia Carrere). You can bet that Wayne and Garth, with a little help from their friends, will be able to work everything out by the end of the movie.

“Aren’t you gonna open your gift?
“If it’s a severed head I’ll be really upset.”

A plot summary does not do justice to Wayne’s World. Like many other comedies, a tightly wound plot is not the goal. Nay, the point of Wayne’s World is to make the audience laugh, and that it does in bountiful measure. Only the dour or the dead would not be amused by this movie.

Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played girl bunny?

Saturday Night Live” has spawned more films than even the Star Trek franchise. Most have less than stellar reputations, and deservedly so. The first, and arguably the only other good one besides the Wayne’s World flicks, was The Blues Brothers, which has gained a revered cult status in the over 20 years since it has been released. Others, like It’s Pat, The Coneheads, A Night at the Roxbury, and Superstar, have built that reputation that causes film lovers to turn up their collective noses at the words “based on a SNL skit.” On the surface, you would think that Wayne’s World would be one of the least successful of the bunch. I mean, it seems like there could be many adventures out there for Tim Meadows’s Leon Phelps, but The Ladies Man was a severe disappointment. Wayne’s World was based on a series of sketches that featured only the “Wayne’s World” TV show, but the creators of the film were able to built an entire world (if I can sound so snooty) for the characters. Myers and the other screenwriters took the slim material and spun it out to feature length without falling into the pitfalls that snared other SNL-based productions. It’s not padded with gratuitous jokes, needless cameos (there’s a few, sure, but they serve useful purposes), or wasted exposition. It’s lean humor that is funny from start to finish.

That is a babe! She makes me feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.

The humor of Wayne’s World sits in an odd place. It would be two years before Dumb and Dumber would put the filmgoing public’s seal of approval upon the raunchy potty humor that seems to be de rigueur in today’s comedies aimed at teenagers. It’s not what I’d call a clean, suitable for all ages comedy either. It walks the line between the two, using double entendre and euphemism to keep the astute informed, “schwing” type humor to entertain the juvenile in all of us. I appreciate that. I think that Dumb and Dumber is a great movie — Jim Carrey’s best, and the Farrelly Brothers’ second funniest, behind the even raunchier Kingpin — but I like a movie that makes me stretch for laughs, rather than just showing me a gross situation and expecting that I’m going to find that inherently funny.

I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes that everyone liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.

Wayne’s World also relies on another well-worn comedy standby that I find highly entertaining: pop culture references. I mean, you’re looking at the guy who thinks The Simpsons is the purest form of comedy known to humankind. Show me Adam West in an inappropriate cameo, and it will make me laugh every time. Two of the three best moments of Wayne’s World are these sort of references. One is a cameo by Robert Patrick, reprising his role from Terminator 2. “Have you seen this boy?” Ha ha. Gets me every time. The other is a spot-on parody of the title sequence of a sitcom set in Milwaukee.

Ribbed for her pleasure. Ewww!

As much as I love Wayne’s World, you have to look at it as the turning point, and not in a positive sense, in the career of Penelope Spheeris. Prior to Wayne’s World, she was known for gritty documentaries chronicling the punk and metal music scenes (The Decline of Western Civilization and The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years) and hard-hitting dramas featuring characters from those milieus (The Boys Next Door, Suburbia). And then she struck paydirt with these humorous headbangers; Wayne’s World grossed $122 million domestically, putting it at number 145 on the all-time top grosser list. Suddenly, she went from a chronicler of the rock scene with street cred to the director of pointless comedies. She followed up Wayne’s World with another TV adaptation, this time the ignominious Beverly Hillbillies, then with the equally shameful The Little Rascals and the aptly titled Black Sheep (starring SNL alumni Chris Farley and David Spade).

I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored.

What was a negative turning point in Spheeris’s career was a positive one for Mike Myers. Can you believe that Wayne’s World was his first film? He quickly followed it up with the sequel and the sweetly funny So I Married An Axe Murderer, which proved early that he could not only do a terrific Scottish accent, but he could act against himself very convincingly. The latter skill would come in handy four years later when he starred in his greatest creation to date: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

It’s like a new pair of underwear, you know. At first it’s constrictive, but after a while it becomes a part of you.

Jeez, for such a funny movie, I sure am being serious. Wayne’s World is entertaining, whimsical and yet relevant, with an underlined revisionist conceit that belies the film’s emotional attachments to the subject matter. There. That’s out of my system now.

She will be mine. Oh yes — she will be mine.

Wayne’s World is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. There is no apparent film grain, very few dust speckles, and no noticeable digital artifacts. Flesh tones tend to be a little reddish, and dark scenes are a little too dark, but otherwise the transfer is first-rate. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and it is an exceptional remix from its theatrical stereo sound. Dialogue is clear and natural, and the active mix uses all channels. Especially impressive are the live concert scenes, which burst to life all around you.

We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!

Extras are a little light, but the quality is there, so I’m not complaining. The best extras are the commentary track and the interviews. Director Penelope Spheeris provides the commentary. She is a little dry, and not overly talkative — she goes a half a minute at times without saying anything — but on the whole she has some interesting insights about the filming of Wayne’s World. The interview section, entitled “Extreme Close-Up,” gives around 30 minutes of retrospective interviews with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, Tia Carrere, and Penelope Spheeris. It is quite obvious that all had a grand time making the film, and remember it fondly. Other that that, the only other extra is the theatrical trailer.

“Hey, where’d you learn to speak English?”
“College…and the Police Academy movies.”

I do not normally make mention of the menus, but I have to give props to Paramount for the menus on both Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2. You know those stations on most cable networks that are devoted to showing the programming schedule? That’s what the menus look like. The top half of the screen shows fake ads or the trailer for the movie. The bottom half is arranged like a programming grid. On the main menu, there’s even clips for other programs! Forget all those flashy whiz-bang menus; these are the coolest I’ve ever seen.

I don’t have a single negative thing to say about the movie. I’m going to be lenient with Paramount for a slightly underfeatured presentation, because A) I love the movie, B) the audio and video are far better than some other studios might have given us, and C) dude, those menus rock! (And lest you think that was mere sarcasm, I assure you it was not…they are really that cool.)


I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go, will you let me go
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go let me go
Will not let you go let me go
Will not let you go let me go
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!

Wait, what am I thinking? Of course I’ll let it go, because neither the movie nor the disc have done anything wrong. Acquittals all around.

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