• Ben Keightley

Wayne's World (1992) - Penelope Spheeris

With a successful career as a writer, producer and director across a range of films including comedy, mockumentary and and documentaries on the history of the music scene, Penelope Spheeris was a perfect choice to direct the feature film of Saturday Night Live characters Wayne and Garth and their cable access TV show, Wayne's World. With Spheeris' direction the film effortlessly zings through a series of hilarious set pieces and sketches, allowing the strengths of the comedy writing, Mike Myers (Wayne) and Dana Carvey (Garth) brilliant chemistry and performances room to breath and carry the audience through this fantasy story of underachieving youths having a good time.

Wayne and Garth host a weekly public access TV show which is inane, senseless and utterly nonsensical, but manages to strike a chord with its youth audience that brings it the attention of sleazy producer Benjamin Oliver (a brilliant Rob Lowe) who is looking for a show to be sponsored by Noah Vanderhoff, a video arcade magnate. At the same time, Wayne falls in love Cassandra, lead singer and bassist of a local band, Crucial Taunt. From this relatively simple premise comes one of the 90s best comedies and the highest grossing film based on a SNL skit.

The film plays very much like the coming-of-age teen comedies that were so prevalent in the late 60's, 70's and 80's, just with a more edgy, yet cuddly, tone. You can trace a line from a film like American Graffiti to Wayne's World. But where American Graffiti exists on the precipice between youth and adulthood, of small town life and the big bright world, Wayne's World, and its characters, seem content to exist in their small town. Enjoying life, with dreams extending to know more than owning a Stratocaster and falling in love with a local band's lead singer. It's this modest ambition that gives Wayne's World so much of it effortless charm. This comes across in the films opening sequence, beginning with Wayne's direct-to-camera address where he sets out his modest life, and how content he is with it, through the the playful and hilarious Bohemian Rhapsody sequence as Wayne and he friends drive through the small town Aurora.

Penelope Spheeris on the set of Wayne's World with Mike Myers
Penelope Spheeris on the set of Wayne's World with Mike Myers

The plot is predictable and simple, but we're not here for plot. It serves merely as an opportunity to set up the goofy set pieces and shuffle the story forward to the inevitable climax and resolution - which itself becomes an outrageously funny sequence. In fact, what is so enjoyable and admirable about Wayne's World is how much it strives to be a non-stop laugh-a-minute comedy without ever really appearing to try. The film is very much like its slightly lazy, dimwitted, but good-hearted characters; without really trying they deliver something brilliantly, endearingly honest. And its the hard work of director Spheeris, and writers Myers, Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner that makes it feel so easy. A great deal of energy, dedication and commitment has clearly gone into crafting these characters and jokes. There is a hidden wit and sly wink to the audience about so much of the comedy in this film. Jokes are sequences make no sense at all, except in the context of the wider narrative and world. The film is extremely self-reflexive with its comedy and filmmaking techniques and then self-reflexive with its own self-reflexity. Somehow despite the film drawing attention to the fictional nature of the characters, the integrity of the world they create never falls apart.

For me, Wayne's World is, and remains an enduring classic. In being so good-hearted, so honest and uncynical its charm holds a power I am incapable, and unwilling to fight against. Yes, its silly, some of the jokes are stupid and many of the characters are two dimensional, but I've seen the film so many times I can probably quote the entire script, and yet every time I watch it I find myself laughing hysterically and loving spending time with these characters. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth!

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