Saturday, June 14, 2014

Stubs - Wayne’s World

Wayne’s World (1992) Starring: Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe. Tia Carrere. Directed by Penelope Spheeris.  Screenplay by Mike Meyers, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner. Produced by Lorne Michaels. Run Time: 94 minutes. U.S.  Color, Comedy

Movies and television may have started out as competition, but they have influenced one another. Many films have been turned into television series, including two series based on Casablanca and most recently Fargo, a limited series based on the movie of the same name. And several times TV movies and series have been brought to the big screen as well, from the sublime of Marty, which started as a play for TV, and to the ridiculousness of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which riffed on bad movies. But no show has “inspired” more movies than Saturday Night Live (SNL) which led to 11 films over a 30 year period from The Blue Brothers (1980) to MacGruber (2010). However, Wayne’s World is an SNL skit inspired movie which actually works, of which there are actually very few.

Back when Mike Meyers was more versatile than a Scottish brogue, he developed the character of Wayne Campbell, a part he played at parties and a character he brought with him to his stint on SNL. On the show, he expanded the skit to include a sidekick, Garth Algar (Dana Carvey), as in “Party on Garth”. On SNL, Wayne’s World was a send up of community access television, a show, hosted by a teenager, shot in the basement of his parents’ house, whom we never see, telecast on cable Channel 10 in Aurora, IL. The skit made such sayings as “Schwing”, “Excellent” and “Way, No Way, Way” popular to a certain generation of late night TV viewers.

In the movie, Wayne is a little older, say early 20’s, still living at home and going from one Joe job to another (name tags and hairnet work). His dream, he tells us directly addressing the movie’s audience, is to make a living doing Wayne’s World, but even he admits the chances of doing that are slim; monkeys flying out of his butt is used as a metaphor on the likelihood of that happening.

Wayne Campbell (Mike Meyers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) interview local
Aurora inventor Ron Paxton (Charles Noland) on their cable access show Wayne's World.

Aurora is not without its night spots. Wayne and Garth, driving his mirth mobile, a 1977 AMC Pacer with a red flame painted on, the boys and their camera crew sing along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with hilarious results. They first stop to get doughnuts at Stan Mikita’s (Mikita is a former Chicago Blackhawks hockey player), where Wayne runs into his crazy ex-girlfriend, Stacy (Lara Flynn Boyle), and Garth can look at his dream girl (Donna Dixon), a counter girl at the shop. We also meet Glen (Ed O’Neill), the manager at Mikita’s, who briefly takes over breaking the fourth wall from Wayne, as he starts telling us about killing a man before Wayne informs him that only he and Garth can talk to the audience.

At Stan Mikita's, Wayne is confronted by his crazy ex- Stacy (Lara Flynn Boyle).

From there, the gang head to the Gasworks, a music club for Heavy Metal enthusiasts. There, Wayne sees Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrera), the lead singer and bassist for the band Crucial Taunt, doing a less than heavy metal rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire. And schwing, Wayne is in love.

Meanwhile, Ad man Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe), in bed with a former girlfriend Elyse (Ione Skye), discovers Wayne’s World and immediately seizes upon the idea of using it for potential client Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray), the proprietor of a chain of video arcades, Noah’s Arcade. Along with his producing partner, Russell Finley (Kurt Fuller), they propose to a skeptical Noah and his wife (Colleen Camp) that he should sponsor Wayne’s World and get a spot on the show to advertise the new games at Noah’s. Once he’s convinced, Benjamin has to get control of the show.

Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe) in bed with Elyse (Ione Skye) sees Wayne's World
for the first time and immediately sees how he can exploit it for his own gain.

$10,000 is a lot of money to Wayne and Garth and their knowledge of contracts dooms them as they sign away their show to Benjamin, who moves it out of Wayne’s parents’ house and sets up a replica in a TV studio in Chicago. Meanwhile, Benjamin also sees Cassandra perform and his interest in her isn’t purely business.
Garth seems to catch on to Benjamin’s ulterior motives before Wayne, but doesn’t really tell his friend his thoughts. With his new found wealth, Wayne buys his dream guitar, a ‘64 Fender Stratocaster in classic white with triple pickups and a whammy bar.

"Do you take cash?" After unwittingly selling his show, Wayne
buys the guitar of his dreams. Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is with him.

Back to business, Benjamin informs Wayne that Vanderhoff will be getting a spot on the show. In a scene, later parodied on shows like 30 Rock, Wayne and Garth talk about not selling out, while showing off “sponsored” product placement, including Pizza Hut, Doritos, Reebok and Nuprin.

Wayne vows not to let sponsors tell him how to run his show.

While Wayne’s new relationship with Cassandra starts to be a strain on his friendship with Garth, Benjamin gives them tickets to an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee as a way of getting Wayne out of the way so he could have a shot at Cassandra. Benjamin offers Cassandra the chance to get a recording contract.

Benjamin Kane (Rob Lowe) has his eyes on Cassandra.

When Wayne and Garth shoot their first Wayne’s World in the new studio, they are intimidated at first, but when Wayne is forced to interview Vanderhoff, he does his usual shtick and writes insulting comments about his guest and sponsor on the back of cue cards which he shows to his TV audience. Insults like “Sphincter Boy” and “This man has no penis” don’t sit well with Benjamin, who fires him on the spot. This leaves an ill-prepared and frightened Garth to run the show by himself. Wayne learns that Benjamin could care less if either Wayne or Garth is involved in the show, as well as learning about Benjamin’s intentions for Cassandra. When Garth and Wayne later meet up, they reconcile their friendship.

Wayne's antics towards new show sponsor Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray) get him fired.

Along with their friends, Wayne and Garth decide to take their show back. Remembering something they’d overheard from a concert security guard (Chris Farley), Wayne and Garth set up a broadcast from the basement intended solely for the TV in the limo for rock promoter Frankie “Mr. Big” Sharp (Frank DiLeo), the man behind Sharp Records. Benjamin learns of the plan and hurries to Wayne’s house to stop the broadcast. He is briefly detained by Officer Koharski (Frederick Collin), who has a penchant for cavity searches.

Cassandra and her band Crucial Taunt rock out to The Ballroom Blitz.

In the first ending, Sharp and Benjamin arrive at the Wayne house at about the same time. Sharp tells Cassandra that now isn’t the time for him to sign her. Cassandra then leaves with Benjamin. Stacy shows up and informs Wayne that she’s pregnant with their child. Wayne and Garth are then nearly burned alive in a house fire.  
Speaking to the audience, Wayne acknowledges that this is a bad ending and they proceed to an ending reminiscent of an episode of Scooby Doo.

In the Scooby Doo ending, Benjamin is revealed to be Old Man Withers (Carmen Filpi),
who would have gotten away with his plans if it weren't for those meddlesome kids.

One more ending, the real “mega happy ending”, in which Sharp arrives and is so impressed by Cassandra’s cover of Sweet’s “The Ballroom Blitz” that he signs her to a six-record deal. Not only are Cassandra and Wayne together, but Garth’s dream girl shows up for a kiss as well.

In the mega-happy ending, even Garth gets a kiss from his dream girl (Donna Dixon).

The movie is irreverent as the skits had been on SNL, but still manages to successfully wing its way through a predictable, but still very fun storyline. I would say a lot of the credit for that belongs with the screenplay, written by Meyers with Bonnie Turner and her husband/writing partner Terry. What could have been one of what would end up being a long line of crash and burn SNL movies gets dimension as well as some very funny lines of dialogue.

Having Penelope Spheeris direct seems like an odd choice on the surface. Best known for directing a trilogy of film documentaries: The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988) and The Decline of Western Civilization Part III (1998); she does have some comedy chops. She produced Albert Brook’s film segments for the first season of Saturday Night Live as well as his first funny, but flawed, film Real Life (1979). She was also a writer for the Rosanne sitcom in 1990 prior to working on Wayne’s World. Afterward, she seems to have focused more on comedies than documentaries. She is responsible for bringing the 60’s TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) as well as The Little Rascals (1994) to the big screen. Other than those titles, most of her films don’t seem to stand out: Senseless (1998) and Balls to the Wall (2010) to name a couple of her post Wayne’s World works.

Mike Meyers is very good in his first film. He would go onto to star in such films as the offbeat romance So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), before doing a Wayne World’s sequel, Wayne’s World 2 (1993). He would go on to write and produce a 007 take-off Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), a film that would initially flop at the boxoffice, but would be saved by its home entertainment release, prompting a sequel, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

In 2001, Meyers would play what might be his best known role, that of the title character in Shrek (2001), which would spawn its own sequels Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007) and Shrek Forever After (2010), not to mention spin off films with characters introduced through the Shrek franchise. Meyers seemed to do no wrong at the boxoffice, including The Cat in the Hat (2003). That is until he wrote, produced and starred in The Love Guru (2008). That film cost about $22 million more to make than it made at the boxoffice and is his most pronounced movie flop.

Most recently, Meyers has directed a documentary, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2014) about talent agent Shep Gordon, whom Meyers met while trying to license a song by one of Gordon’s clients, Alice Cooper, for Wayne’s World. Talk about a small world.

If there is a weak link in Wayne’s World, it might be Carvey’s Garth, who is really a one dimensional dweeb who is like someone who knows one piano chord which they play over and over again. Garth, who was created for the SNL skit to worship Wayne, really doesn’t have that much to do rather than look overwhelmed by everything. He gets a few direct addresses to the camera, but he is a minor character barely more important than Wayne’s love interest, Cassandra.

Tia Carrere, a Filipino-American actress, plays the Cantonese-speaking, but English-singing, Cassandra and actually does all her own singing in the part. While Carrere had been in films before Wayne’s World, her parts in this film and its sequel made her a star. Though she never really caught on as a leading lady, she has been quite successful as a voice actor, perhaps best known for playing Nani in Lilo & Stitch (2002), Lilo & Stitch: The Series (2003-2006), Stitch! The Movie (2003), Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) and Leroy & Stitch (2006).

Rob Lowe is easy to dislike as Benjamin Kane. Lowe has the appearance of the man with everything, including a fast-talking way with everyone he wants to influence. He always seems to get his way by pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, a role he would recreate in Tommy Boy (1995), a film not inspired by an SNL skit, but starring Farley and David Spade, who were cast mates on the late night show, before branching out into films together.

Wayne’s World may not be for everyone, but while the film flirts with sophomoric humor it never quite succumbs to those tendencies. This is not high humor by any stretch, but when the film is funny it is laugh out loud funny. There are stretches that seem to have little to do with moving the plot forward, but seem designed to showcase the comedic and musical talents of the cast. I’m not sure we really need Garth’s dream-like drum solo or need to see Meyers walking around in his tighty whities wearing Cassandra’s bra, but for better or worse they are moments captured on film for this movie.

This may be faint praise, but Wayne’s World is the best of the SNL skit based films and as such is responsible for Lorne Michaels trying again and again (and failing again and again) to capture the magic of the five minute sketch on the silver screen. Wayne’s World is definitely worth watching and one of the few exceptions from the show that does not require caution before viewing.

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