While the first movie to focus on characters from Saturday Night Live has become a serious cult hit over the last 20 years, it wasn’t terribly successful during its theatrical run in 1980. As such, The Blues Brothers remained a solo act for quite some time, and we wouldn’t see another SNL-based flick until 1992.
However, when that film hit screens, the whole situation changed. Wayne’s World proved to be a solid hit; no, its $121 million gross didn’t rewrite the record books, but it was a very strong gross for a very small, low-budget offering.
From there, the floodgates opened as additional SNL-based flicks appeared. Since 1992, we’ve gotten an additional eight movies that starred characters from SNL skits. Granted, since that number includes sequels to both Wayne’s World and The Blues Brothers, it doesn’t seem like an extreme total, but when one considers the box office take of these flicks, the figure appears to be more significant.
That’s because all of the post-Wayne offerings fared poorly. Wayne’s World 2 barely managed to grab one-third of the original’s business, and it was easily the best performer of the bunch. 1998’s A Night At the Roxbury and 1999’s Superstar each took in about $30 million, while 1993’s Coneheads grabbed $21 million. Both 1998’s Blues Brothers 2000 and 2000’s The Ladies Man stumbled to $13 million grosses, but they looked like Titanic compared to the pack’s weaklings. 1995’s Stuart Saves His Family failed to get into seven figures as it stalled at $911,000, while 1994’s It’s Pat took in an abysmal $60,000! Actually, if I recall correctly, the latter barely appeared in theaters and was essentially a straight-to-video release; I got the $60,000 figure from IMDB, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy.
What I do know, however, is that a) Wayne’s World caused this continued stream of SNL-based films although b) Wayne’s World was the only one of the bunch to earn any real money. Admittedly, I expect that the various spin-offs cost relatively little to make, so after video revenues, the ones that made it to the 20 or 30 million dollar range might have pulled in a small profit, but clearly none of them can compare with the financial bonanza that was Wayne’s World.
This film set up the formula that would be emulated by virtually all of the later spin-off efforts. It can be hard to create 90 minutes worth of movie based on a five minute TV sketch, so WW offers a loose plot that largely sticks with small chunks of gags. Yes, WW has a story, but it’s a fairly thin one. As we know from SNL, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) broadcast a cable access TV show from the basement of Wayne’s house. Actually, it’s his parents’ house, but Wayne still lives there. Anyway, at the very start of the film, a shifty TV executive named Benjamin (Rob Lowe) decides to acquire the program so he can sell it and make money off of it. Of course, Wayne and Garth are innocent pawns in his scheme; Wayne wants to be able to earn a living from “Wayne’s World”, but he still wants to do the program he likes, and Benjamin’s plans will ultimately ruin it.
Another complication occurs when Wayne hooks up with sexy rocker Cassandra (Tia Carrere). The two hit it off, but Wayne fears that she will be unable to resist the charms of smooth, handsome Benjamin. Inevitably, Wayne mucks up pretty much everything in his life before he attempts to make it all good again.
While that plot synopsis may lead you to believe that a lot happens in Wayne’s World, the truth is that the movie really is little more than a compilation of gags all packaged into one semi-coherent package. Frankly, that’s not a bad thing. WW flows smoothly enough between bits to ensure that the storyline seems reasonably unforced for the most part. Many successful films have utilized a similar structure - This Is Spinal Tap and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure come to mind - so I certainly won’t criticize Wayne’s World for the same tendencies.
That said, I must admit I’ve never been wild about this movie, and my most recent screening did little to change my mind. While the plot may have appeared reasonably well-integrated, I did think other aspects of the film seemed to be forced, mainly due to Myers’ performance. By this point, he should have been very familiar with the character, but his tone felt wrong throughout much of the movie. Myers made Wayne appear less warm and likeable than on TV, and he could seem downright surly at times, all for no apparent reason. To be sure, some scenes force Wayne to be less pleasant, but Myers simply looked like he was in a bad mood for much of the film, and this made Wayne work less well than he should.
It didn’t help that Myers has a strong tendency to mug for the camera and play things in a cutesy manner, and that side of him cropped up frequently during WW. I always enjoyed Wayne on SNL, but as portrayed in the film, I thought that Myers failed to adequately expand the role past the confines of his parents’ basement.
On the other hand, Carvey was a lot of fun as Garth. He played the character as even more of an innocent than usual, and the tone really worked. Carvey provided some wonderfully odd and entertaining line readings, and Garth became a much greater focus. Perhaps Myers was in a bad mood because Carvey stole the movie from him.
Overall, I think that Wayne’s World is a moderately enjoyable little flick. I never felt that it merited the success it obtained, as it provides a fairly fun experience but it doesn’t excel in many ways. Nonetheless, it remains a light and fitfully witty piece that continues to have its moments.
Wayne’s World appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although a few small concerns appeared, as a whole I thought WW looked terrific.
Sharpness consistently seemed to be crisp and distinct. At no time during the film did I detect any signs of softness or fuzziness, as the movie looked nicely detailed and accurate. Moiré effects and jagged edges made no appearances, but I did witness some minor edge enhancement at times. Print flaws were fairly minimal. A few examples of white speckles and black grit cropped up, and I saw one or two instances of streaks and small scratches. However, as a whole, this was a reasonably clean and fresh picture.
Colors generally seemed to be outstanding. On occasion colored lighting caused some minor problems, as I thought a few shots inside the Gasworks appeared mildly muddy, but those instances were rare. For the most part, the hues looked bright and vivid, and the majority of the colored lighting scenes seemed clear and accurate. For some highlights, check out the shots at the Polynesian restaurant; they provided rich and vibrant tones. Black levels were deep and strong, and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Ultimately, Wayne’s World provided a very pleasing visual experience.
Also strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Wayne’s World. Frankly, I didn’t expect much, as comedies usually offer very center-oriented and bland mixes. However, the soundfield of WW often opened up nicely, mainly due to the frequent use of music. Effects offered positive atmosphere throughout the movie, but they usually remained fairly subdued and general. A couple of scenes became livelier, especially when Wayne and Garth watched the planes land; those sequences lit up all five channels in a satisfying manner.
However, music remained the most active element, and the movie used different tunes in a compelling manner. The emphasis remained in the forward spectrum, as the songs displayed fine stereo separation and were placed appropriately within the soundstage. The surrounds also kicked in good reinforcement of the songs, and the live venues sounded especially good, as the rear channels created a convincing club environment.
Audio quality also seemed to be solid. Dialogue sounded natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were generally detailed and accurate, with positive fidelity and clarity; the plane landings appeared slightly distorted, but they didn’t display any significant concerns. Again, music worked best, as the songs seemed bright, dynamic and rich. Low-end response was quite good, as the tunes featured tight and deep bass. Overall, I really enjoyed the soundtrack to Wayne’s World, as it provided a fine listening experience.
One additional sound-related concern revolved around the scene in which Wayne plays the Fender at the music shop. Apparently during the movie’s US theatrical run, he played the intro to “Stairway to Heaven”. However, rights issues forced them to change this to a vaguely-similar sequence that doesn’t duplicate the Led Zeppelin classic. As I’ve perused various message boards, some folks have been curious about this, so I thought I should mention it.
The DVD release of Wayne’s World includes a few good supplements. First up is a running audio commentary from director Penelope Spheeris. Although the track was a little spotty at times, for the most part Spheeris provided a fairly interesting discussion of the film. Actually, she also talked about her career as a whole and went into her feelings about a variety of movie-related issues. Spheeris proved to be fairly frank about her experiences on the movie; while she didn’t dish any serious dirt, she alluded to competitiveness between its stars and got into her general concerns. Overall, this was a pretty compelling and fun little track.
Next we move on to Extreme Close-Up, a collection of recent interviews with Wayne’s World participants. During this 23-minute and 15-second program, we hear from actors Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe and Tia Carrere plus producer Lorne Michaels and director Penelope Spheeris. In addition to the interview clips, the show features a few brief shots from the set and a smattering of film snippets.
While “Extreme Close-Up” wasn’t a fascinating program, it was a step up from the usual interview programs that appear on Paramount DVDs. Often those shows are drab conglomerations of praise, but while “ECU” certainly has some of those moments, it features a decent total of interesting details about the film. Some of these are redundant, as we hear statements already included in Spheeris’ commentary, but there was a positive amount of new information to be learned. The participants mainly stick with general anecdotes and memories, and the program doesn’t have a solid organization, but the factoids were fairly fun and interesting, so “Extreme Close-Up” merited a look.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, Wayne’s World includes some of the most creative DVD menus I’ve seen. The main screen resembles one of those cable TV program guides that continuously update current shows, and it’s a very clever touch. The package even integrates some clips from other Paramount programs to create the illusion that different viewing options exist; if you click their entries, you can watch brief snippets from Solid Gold Workout, Sunburn, and the TV version of The Brady Bunch. DVD menus usually do little for me, but I thought these were a nice touch.
Overall, I felt that Wayne’s World received good treatment for this DVD. The movie remains an inconsistent but generally entertaining little piece. It’s not something I’d care to watch too many times, but I can understand its charms and it still works pretty well. The DVD offers quite solid picture and sound plus it features a decent roster of supplements. Fans of the film or its cast should be pleased with this disc, and they’ll want to give Wayne’s World a look.