“Wayne’s World! Wayne’s World! Party time! Excellent!”
I don’t think I ever actually saw the “Saturday Night” sketch that led to this movie, but I still sing the stupid intro “song” to it. It was the height of catch-phrase-era SNL, and people across the nation were adding “NOT!” to the end of sentences like it was funny. “That’s what she said” was also a line here, but that didn’t catch really on until “The Office”. (Although I do believe both of those phrases enjoyed some currency decades earlier, which probably proves something about something. I remember Frank Burns’ adding “NOT!” in the same manner, and thereby demonstrating a lack of intelligence and humor on “M*A*S*H”. Culture is a funny thing.)
The theme this month for throwbacks is marijuana although, much like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, no drugs are actually taken here other than alcohol, and never to excess. There is one character who spends the whole movie looking on the verge of throwing up; they say he’s “partied out”. Culture, as I say, is a funny thing.
The kids thought it was okay; it was funny how many of the references were lost of them. The Boy said—in reference to a scene where Wayne and Garth re-enact the opening of “Laverne and Shirley”, a show which he has never seen—it was kind of funnier not knowing the reference. “Oh, now they’re goofing off in a brewery.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the catch-phrase stuff was both lost on them and the weakest parts of the movie. “We’re not worthy!” got a mild chuckle. “Not!” didn’t, nor did “Schwing!” or “Exqueeze me?” or “Sphinctersezwhat?” Indeed, in these modern days, the humiliation of the Big Arcade Chain Owner (has there ever been one, really?) would be done deliberately for viral marketing purposes, and the idea of “sticking it to the man” doesn’t really play.
Actually, none of the plot plays at all. It’s basically the sort of thing that was old and stupid when Animal House parodied it in the ’70s, though it’s played straight here. We aren’t really given a whole lot of reason to think Wayne is a better match for Tia Carrerre than Rob Lowe. (Carrere sings her own vocals in the movie, by the way.) He lives with his parents and has a public access show while she’s at least the lead singer for a real band and has a ridiculous loft apartment (which may be cheap in Aurora, Illinois but it’s still more than your mom’s basement).
Myers schtick, intriguingly, barely plays. The catch phrases, the vocal ticks, the shit-eating grin and the weirdly passive-aggressive smarminess isn’t particularly funny. The Austin Powers series, I think, wears better because it’s more in line with benign Bill & Ted-style humor. (Even the bad guys in Austin Powers don’t really mean harm.) That’s probably it: Lowe’s character is a little bit greasy, to be sure—and a perfect role for him at the time, after his seminal (*kaff*) sex tape scandal—but his main crime is being a rival to Wayne for Cassandra’s affections. (And, honestly, who is Wayne to turn down Lara Flynn Boyle, crazy or no?)
The stuff that works? Ed O’Neill’s Dark Donut Guy bits are great. The segment where Cassandra and Wayne talk in increasingly intricate Chinese. The fake endings work, though not as well as I remembered. Alice Cooper’s dissertation on Milwaukee! (Doubtless not coincidentally, Cooper figures prominently in Meyer’s documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.) Unsurprisingly, then, I guess, the stuff that holds up is the stuff that has nothing to do with the SNL sketch.
It was Blues Brothers that gave the world the idea that SNL sketches would be a good source of feature comedies, but if I recall correctly, the Blues Brothers weren’t a sketch at all: They were literally just Aykroyd and Belushi dressing in black suits and shades to do a musical number. Landis’ movie could’ve done virtually anything from there. If Wayne’s World has a particular sin, it’s furthering the notion that SNL-sketch-based-movies were a good idea.
The Flower liked the first ending the best, where the music producer comes in and says something like “You’re a very beautiful woman but I don’t think the time is right.” It is probably the only surprising moment in the movie, as far as the plot goes.
Poor Tia Carrera had to put up with random guys yelling “schwing!” at her for the rest of her life, though.