'Wayne's World' should stay small

February 14, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

THE WORLD according to Wayne is divided into three parts: Babes, Babes and more Babes. In fact, where some men curse the darkness and say, "Why?," Wayne lights a candle and says, "More babes, please."

Wayne Campbell, of course, is Aurora, Illinois' prime metalhead and cable access TV unstar. You may call him crude, rude, loud and lewd, but at least he was educated on the classics -- "Alice Cooper," "Motley Crue" -- before moving into the avant-garde -- "Anthrax," "MegaDeth" and "Headlice." (OK, I made up that last one.)

GRATUITOUS MOVIE CRITIC "INSIGHT": Wayne is to young American blue-collar males what Dirty Harry was to police brutality, namely, probably a bad idea but kind of cool just the same.

Wayne is the most bodaciously agreeable young lout this side of Huck Finn -- whom he somewhat resembles in a twisted sister kind of way -- and he's at the center of "Wayne's World." If you're from Neptune's World or Bowser's World, you won't know that Michael Meyers and his buddy Dana Carvey invented Wayne and Garth for NBC's "Saturday Night Live" a few years back to incredible success.

Now, the two characters and their cable-access TV show have made it to the movies. What happens if you take something small and perfect and blow it up into a wide-screen professional movie and stretch it out for 90 minutes? Well, it's been tried in the past with SNL's the Blues Brothers, and the results were -- GRATUITOUS MOVIE CRITIC SLUR -- a pail of hurl in the warm sunlight.

The first major miracle of "Wayne's World" the movie is that its makers -- beside Meyers and Carvey, presumably the true auteurs, director Penelope Spheeris and producer (and SNL guru) Lorne Michaels -- haven't overproduced the thing beyond recognizability. It has the same basement-shabby, goony, giddy sensibility of the original.

The story? Someone wrote it on a matchbook cover and it's the merest shadow of a platform from which to allow Wayne and Garth to perform from their repertoire of Wayne-and-Garthisms. Because this is PROFESSIONAL FILM CRITICISM in a BIG FANCY EASTERN NEWSPAPER, let me sum it up: TV lizard and mousse-legend Rob Lowe espies the boys' rompings on cable and, drolly tickled by their camp awfulness, tries to "package" them into a slicker, more professional deal for the wider audience. Being artists, they sell out instantaneously. But the deal, like most deals, dissolves in acrimony when Wayne is asked to suck up to the sponsor.

The core of the plot cleverly echoes the core of the Wayne thing. That is, Lowe smarmily patronizes the boys; he thinks he's better, more sophisticated, more ironic, more in control. Meyers and Carvey, by contrast, never goof on their characters. The real tension in the film is between the forces of innocent genuineness and slick hucksterism.

The movie is a bit spotty there and here, but it has great, anarchistic fun spoofing the cheesy conventions of the cheesy TV rip-off/exploitation genre of which it is so proudly a member. Wayne and Garth confidently address the camera but get slightly peeved when anyone else does. They drop off into that highly stylized, utterly convincing zoidspeak -- "Party On, Garth"/SCHWING! -- that is so much a part of their TV charm.

POINTLESS SHOW-OFF MOVIE CRITIC COMPARISON: In fact, there's such an Elizabethan density to the lingo of Wayne and Garth that it stands in relationship to the utterly bogus Bill and Ted's thin posturings as Shakespeare's poetry stood to Marlowe's.

Party on, America.

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