blogging by Andrew Wickliffe


Wayne’s World (1992, Penelope Spheeris)


Wayne’s World ought to be a no-brainer. Slick, soulless media exec Rob Lowe turns public access metalhead slackers Mike Myers and Dana Carvey into real celebrities; only they don’t like the deal they’ve made with the devil. Along the way, Myers meets metal rocker chick Tia Carrere, and they fall in like until Lowe tries to steal her away with the promise of success. It’s a ninety-four-minute movie; it shouldn’t be that hard.

Yet Wayne’s World manages to fumble entirely, all the way to the disastrous third act. The film’s “documentary crew follows around real people” bit, which director Spheeris profoundly underutilizes, ought to have defined World as a precursor to, you know, the early-to-mid aughts found footage. Instead, the movie completely forgets about it. Even though when Myers and Carvey are talking to the camera, they’re never more likable. Especially Carvey, whose performance is atrocious. No doubt, Spheeris is bad directing actors, but there’s not a single moment of Carvey footage in the regular film they shouldn’t have reshot. He looks inordinately uncomfortable the entire time.

Spheeris is only slightly better at directing his or Myers’s “SNL” gags. They’re some of the film’s more genuinely funny moments because writers Myers, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner can’t seem to find any situational comedy in the situations. The Turners have major sitcom credentials too, which adds to World’s inexplicable fumbling.

As for Spheeris. I always—read: when I was thirteen or fourteen—thought Spheeris got the gig because she was really good at directing American verité and musical performances. Based on the Alice Cooper performance in World, she’s not good at the latter. It’s unclear about the former because World’s got no reality after the first act or so, when they flex shooting on location in Aurora, Illinois. In the second “act” (World would be a frustrating and pointless narrative to chart), the action moves between various sets with some exterior establishing shots in or around Chicago. In another genuinely inexplicable move, all the doors open out. Not sure who was responsible for that choice, but it’s a bad one. When they all go over to see Lowe’s fancy apartment, and Carrere can get impressed, Lowe opens the door out into the hallway to let them in.

What.

Okay, Spheeris. In hindsight, it seems more like she got the job so a woman could co-sign on the foundational misogyny of the film. It’s sometimes friendly, validating misogyny, but, hey, Myers and Carvey are so cute it’s not like they’re bad guys. Especially not since Lowe was still on his rehabilitation tour with World. He looks like he wants to strangle his agent for talking him into the gig. And his outfits, which everyone says are great, are cartoonish in hindsight. Or they cut the scenes about him wearing suits for someone 6’ or taller.

Carrere is a heavy metal babe who’s going to go with whatever guy loves her for her looks AND her music. Though her big performance is a cover, which makes very little sense but it’s in the third act where nothing matters anymore. Carrere works her ass off in World. She’s not very good. Maybe her Chinese accent doesn’t help. But she knows it’s a primo gig, and she tries. As long as she’s willing to strip down and occasionally slut out, World’s a fine showcase.

Unlike Lara Flynn Boyle, who the film repeatedly humiliates as a gag because sad girls deserve to be publicly mocked and derided. Wait, she didn’t originate the part on “SNL”? I assumed she was a weird continuity carryover. It’s so much worse when she’s not.

Also, the movie’s super shitty to Colleen Camp for some reason. Like, screw you, Wayne’s World. You had to get Brian Doyle-Murray because Bill didn’t return your calls.

The best performers are Myers and Carvey’s film crew, who have a half dozen lines total but care about getting future gigs, especially Lee Tergesen. He’s a delight.

Myers and Carvey (mostly Myers) have enough stupid charm to get the thing through, but just barely.

An “SNL: Wayne’s World Best Of” is likely a better use of time. Probably not ninety-four minutes of it, but….


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