A deceptively simple spoof of suburban eccentricity and corporate duplicity, Wayne’s World conceals its ingenuity and technique behind its emphatic, hockey-haired protagonists, inserting piece-to-camera narration and swift editorial work around each sarcastic quip and lecherous daydream. Though the genre requires little more than competency, the craftsmanship on display actually benefits the scenario, providing Wayne and Garth with an insular world to amplify their personalities and cinematic style to match the breadth of their cultural obsessions.
Utilizing montage and comic-strip surrealism borrowed from Saturday Night Live’s mixed-media sketches, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) escort us on a subjective Chicago travelogue, curating a tour of their favorite donut shops, heavy-metal venues and airport landing strips, cataloging the outlandish locals along the way. Though their sense of humor leans towards the puerile and parlance borders on the esoteric (“Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?”), adjusting to the pair’s lingo occurs in an instant, negotiated by an inclusive and immediate form of storytelling.
The communal vibe evoked by the leads yields honest and uproarious moments, sequences and asides that skewer the avarice of network television and channel nostalgia into era-defining visual art (see the “Bohemian Rhapsody” sing-along). Thankfully, this sentimentality never drifts into reverence, freeing the team to scoff at the same cinematic cliches they’re gleefully exploiting, transforming “extraneous” scenes, excessive subtitling and happy endings into self-reflexive film criticism.
Sadly, these formal triumphs don’t always overshadow the faults of the writing staff, revealing the jejune romances and pious posturing at the center of the script. Wayne’s dueling love interests, Tia Carrere and Lara Flynn Boyle, are only furnished with enough dialogue to reinforce their characters’ stereotypes, trapped as little more than an exotic chanteuse and self-loathing ditz at the beck and call of unrepentant male libido. Themes of artistic integrity are just as dubious, considering the compromises inherent in SNL’s composition and the prominent roles of the primary cast in a corporate entity. Biting the hand that feeds is noble, but each statement of defiance feels more like an easy story arc than rallying cry of artistic autonomy.
Aside from misguided agenda and chauvinistic state of mind, Wanye’s World constructs an authentic and inspired universe around it characters, mining laughs from their relatable struggle with the banalities of adult life. Though the trappings of their hair-metal subculture seem tacky in retrospect, a bond is shared through the religion of popular music and American ephemera, forging an alliance with teenagers unrestricted by generational cohort.
Wayne’s World (Paramount Pictures, 1992)
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
Written by Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner
Photographed by Theo Van de Sande