There have been more than a few movies made out of Saturday Night Live sketches over the years, most of them being absolute crap. But some were actually good like The Ladies Man and some were even classics like The Blues Brothers. And, of course, there’s the classic of SNL classics, Wayne’s World.
First appearing as an SNL sketch in 1989, Wayne Campbell (Mike Meyers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) are the hosts of their own cable access show where they discussed hard rock bands, women and openly mocked the issues of the day. The 1992 pairing of Beavis and Butt-head also carried more than a few of those same traits, though they were far more socially inept and idiotic than Wayne and Garth. Their sketches became hugely popular, a mainstay of the late 80s/early 90s era of SNL before their final appearance in 1994. They recently popped up again on a 2011 episode of SNL hosted by Dana Carvey.
When Wayne’s World popped up in movie theatres in 1992, it was definitively a success. Not only was it the 10th highest grossing film that year, it still reigns as the highest grossing film based on an SNL sketch.
In the movie, the boys still have their show but we get to see more of their lives in Aurora, Illinois, particularly the cult following of their show. After meeting and falling for Cassandra, lead singer and bassist for local band Crucial Taunt played by Tia Carrere, Wayne chooses to sell the show to Rob Lowe’s sketchy TV executive. Garth is concerned but goes along with the deal. Naturally, things go awry and hilarity ensues.
More than 20 years later, this film is still wickedly funny, in no small part to the comedy that comes from Wayne and Garth consistently breaking the fourth wall and a variety of random gags that seemingly defy the rules of their world. One moment features Wayne taking a break from trying to converse with Cassandra in her native language to let the subtitles do the work. But underneath their slacker, hard rocking exteriors, lie a pair of smart, witty characters who love life. Many of the gags hold up, but maybe because I remember the context they were made in. One scene that parodies product placement in film and TV shows takes an extremely blatant approach to the practice as Wayne and Garth mock the idea of selling out to sponsors while schilling for several of them. They do so by using products and, at times, mimicking the associated marketing campaigns of the era. While the gist of the bit translates well two decades later, anyone not familiar with the products or their promotions might miss out on a lot of the specific jokes.
But other infamous scenes translate well, like the Alice Cooper concert. The boys make their way to Milwaukee with back stage passes to a Cooper concert, stopping to recreate the opening sequence to Laverne & Shirley.
That would probably be another reference lost on many younger viewers.
Regardless, the boys get to the show and head backstage to hang with Alice. It leads to an inane conversation where Alice and his band discuss the history of the region in a surprisingly banal and amazingly funny back and forth that Wayne and Garth basically just take in. The boys are overwhelmed by the experience, an appropriate response to meeting a music legend.
Music is a key aspect of Wayne’s World, both as an SNL sketch and as a feature film. They pseudo perform the intro music to their cable access show and are driven by their love of hard rock. One of the film’s most memorable scenes features Wayne, Garth and friends driving around in the Mirthmobile, a 1976 powder blue AMC Pacer with flames on it, belting out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The soundtrack for the film features classic cuts from Cinderella, Black Sabbath, Eric Clapton, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rhino Bucket and more. Tia Carrere also contributed four songs in total, two of which appeared on the soundtrack album. That soundtrack, a truly killer rock compilation, hit number one on the US Billboard 200.
Naturally, Wayne’s World was quickly followed by a sequel in 1993. While not as good as the first film and definitely not a classic, it was still an engaging love note to the sketch and hard rock. And it featured Christopher Walken as the villain, which is never a bad thing.
Though there are a few dated references that might be lost on younger, first-time watchers, Wayne’s World is still a great adaptation of a funny sketch and an absolutely classic comedy.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.