Striking, watching the Wayne’s World movies on Blu-Ray more than 15 years after their theatrical premieres. How innocent they seem. Though they’re ancestors of many cheerfully tasteless pop-culture figures — Beavis and Butthead, Austin Powers, and any number of Apatow-ish eternal adolescents — Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) seem more good-natured than ever.
Mike Myers would go on to even greater box-office glory with the Austin Powers series, which worked to push the boundaries of their PG-13 ratings prior to the resurgence of hard-R comedy in the last few years. His initial shot at stardom is far tamer — when Penelope Spheeris, director of the original Wayne’s World, points out a sex joke in the first movie’s commentary track, she adds that it’s a “really clean sex joke”.
In retrospect, these characters have a Clinton-era optimism; though on the lookout for babes and parties, no one feels particularly desperate. Wayne hosts a public access TV show and, in both movies struggles with a way to turn his goofball slacker life into a livelihood. With him, as always, is Garth, a nerdy fellow metalhead with even simpler goals: to avoid the discomfort he feels in so many social situations.
The original Wayne’s World was something of a pop-culture phenomenon back in 1992, then (and still, as of this writing) only the second smash hit ever derived from an Saturday Night Live sketch. It doesn’t take its characters on a careening adventure a la The Blues Brothers; mostly, the movie sees fit to explore Aurora, Illinois, the boys’ oft-mentioned hometown.
If the first film has a more grounded sense of place, rife with local cable channels, local commercials, and local heavy metal bars, the less-heralded sequel has even more to offer pop-culture junkies, with riffs on The Doors, The Graduate, Jurassic Park, kung-fu movies, Woodstock, the Village People, detergent commercials, and any accompanying cliches Myers and Carvey can get their hands on – such as the guys whose job is moving plates of glass, watermelons, and crates of chickens across a busy street (to be revisited later by a speeding car, of course).
Film: Wayne’s World 2
Director: Stephen Surjik
Cast: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Christopher Walken, Chris Farley
US DVD release date: 2009-05-12
Image: http://images.popmatters.com/columns_art/w/ww2-cover.jpgWayne’s World 2 has a less sterling reputation than its predecessor, but taken together years later, outside of trend or box-office concerns, it works nearly as well as the original. It occasionally succumbs to classic cash-in sequel mechanics, repeating a little too much of the first film’s structure (the boys flirt with greater success, meet with setbacks, but triumph in the end after a series of hypothetical, meta-minded alternate finales) and conflicts (twice a slick industry operator threatens to steal away Wayne’s girlfriend; first Rob Lowe, then, amusingly, Christopher Walken), but has just as many bits of incidental inspiration.
Unfortunately, the films’ arrival on Blu-Ray doesn’t leave much room for new appreciation. Both discs regurgitate content from previous, inauspicious DVD releases: commentaries from each film’s director, and retrospective behind-the-scenes featurettes produced about ten years ago.
The directors — Spheeris for the first film and Kids in the Hall director Stephen Surjik for the second — each offer somewhat scattered observations on their tracks. Spheeris jumps back and forth between her early friendship with Lorne Michaels as he was starting up Saturday Night Live and her experiences shooting the Saturday Night Live movie almost two decades later. Surjik’s track just sounds oddly edited, as if it’s been cut down.
Both directors come off as professionals, well aware of comedy mechanics — they even make similar observations about how a “hard laugh” at the beginning of a movie lets the audience know that they’re going to have a good time. Spheeris in particular shows awareness of a good comedy’s indirectly life-affirming qualities.
Absent from these commentaries, of course, are Myers and Carvey themselves, though they do turn up (separately) for interviews. Their prickly relationship during the making of these films has been consistently, if vaguely, documented, and that extends to the commentary tracks. Spheeris talks about shooting scenes “Mike’s way, Dana’s way, and my way” to keep everyone happy, though she notes that this helped the film in the editing room (she also alludes to slightly diva-ish behavior from Myers during the famous “Bohemian Rhapsody” headbanging scene).
Surjik, meanwhile, treads lighter, saying he knows that the Myers/Carvey feud got plenty of press but saw little evidence of it on set. Whatever acrimony existed didn’t linger onscreen; the two actors show easygoing chemistry throughout.
Though the movies look and sound clear in their Blu-Ray incarnations, the Wayne’s World series doesn’t particularly require new editions with extras this slight, especially when we can’t see any deleted material Surjik alludes to in his commentary. These friendly ’90s touchstones don’t rely on storytelling or spectacle, but rather cheerful (and consistently hilarious) goofing around with a throwaway charm missing from later Myers’ projects. They would play just as well on cable or beat-up dorm-room VHS tapes.