'Wayne's World' successfully evades the tyranny of plotting

August 14, 1992|By Nancy Spiller | Nancy Spiller,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Wayne's World

Paramount (1992) You don't have to be twentysomething or under and a metal head to like this movie. You also don't have to be a major fan of the "Saturday Night Live" skit from which this full-length feature hit was spun to find yourself laughing along with the adventures of Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). Director

Penelope Spheeris and skit creator Mr. Myers (who receives screenplay credit with a husband-and-wife team who contribute to "Saturday Night Live") have captured the world of two late-teen buddies aspiring to something more than the tedium of the suburban world in which they've been raised.

This is Ms. Spheeris' first studio feature; she gained previous critical attention with two documentaries on youth culture, "The Decline of Western Civilization," about the punk rock scene of the late '70s, and "The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 2: The Metal Years," about the heavy metal music scene of the '80s. In those films, she displayed an anthropologist's fascination with her subjects, the empathy of a fan and the insight of a therapist. She was able to make sense of a seemingly senseless world and revealed, sometimes poignantly, the motivations behind the music.

"Wayne's World's" tremendous box office success (it topped $110 million) hopefully will mean that the studio will back her future efforts.

Dana Carvey, who is sufficiently beyond his late teens to look exceedingly silly in his blond metal-head wig, proves that he can shine on screen when given a comic role that doesn't force him to be the cute but dumb leading man. Here he plays a supporting part to Myers, but in some ways steals the show. His pantomime to Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" is one of the film's funniest interludes.

Which brings us to another of this film's delights: Unlike the standard Hollywood comedy that is so tightly plotted there's little room for humorous digressions, "Wayne's World" is virtually one wacky digression after the other. Much like its carefree protagonists, it pretty much ducks the tyranny of plotting.

There is thin reason for Mr. Myers and Mr. Carvey to perform an extended parody of the opening to the '70s TV sitcom "Laverne and Shirley," and no defensible reason whatsoever for the boys to be singing along with a crowd of friends to Queen in Wayne's "mirthmobile," but it's some of the film's best stuff.

What there is of plot is fairly standard: Wayne and Garth are local boys made good via their cable-access TV show, "Wayne's World," which broadcasts from the basement of Wayne's

suburban Illinois home. (Mr. Myers, a native of the Canadian suburbs, acknowledges that much of Wayne's world is autobiographical.) They come to the attention of a unctuous broadcasting executive (Rob Lowe) who wants to take them to the Big Time, but in so doing they must, of course, sell out.

Tucked between this not-so-major conflict is Wayne's love for a metal rocker, played by the exotic Tia Carrera, and Garth's TC moony obsession with a doughnut shop worker, played by Donna Dixon. The film is peppered with the lexicon of Wayne's world, much of which has become catch phrases for the '90s, such as the use of "not" to put a statement in ironic turnaround, and multiple variations on "babe" to describe women, as in "babe-athon," "major babe" and most inventive, "Baberham Lincoln."

"Wayne's World" is a major studio film that manages, like the best of the Marx Brothers, to maintain the goofy, shaggy feel of an independent. Better that than the heavy hand of the executives in charge of being nervous about its outcome.

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