Friday, 30 October 2015

The Wayne's World Movies

There will doubtless be some media coverage in the next few days about the fortieth anniversary of the original release of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Included will probably be reference to the song's second lease of life following its inclusion in a memorable scene in the first "Wayne's World" movie. I recently watched both of the "Wayne's World" films, back-to-back, and found them highly enjoyable.

The thing which stands out for me is the fast pace of the first picture in particular, and the amount of information, particularly the pop-culture references and often obscure jokes. For this reason, the movies bear repeated viewings, so that anything which was missed can be swept up and absorbed. There is a lot going on....

The movies both celebrate and satirize modern media culture, and poke fun at consumerism. One thing which is curious about these films is that by the time they appeared in the early 1990s much of the music and ethos which they seek to venerate was being deemed passe. However, its celebration of the wonder and the occasional absurdity of the "classic rock" genre is touching - the guitar shop scenes epitomize this almost naive enthusiasm, as does the "homage" paid to Alice Cooper and Aerosmith.

Inter-generational teasing forms part of the comedy, as does sending up what Wayne and Garth would perceive to be the dullness and conformity of the corporate world. To describe it as "the kids against everybody else" would be to over-simplify it, but the sub-text is definitely there.

I don't think that Mike Myers has received sufficient credit for his acting performance as Wayne.  He is dynamic but subtle, and he also displays his talent for physical comedy. My interpretation is that Dana Carvey intentionally plays Garth in an "exaggerated" way, so as to accentuate the character's social awkwardness and geekiness.

The sub-plots greatly enrich both of the films. The morose musings of the guy who runs the diner, Wayne's ex-girlfriend Stacey, and in "Wayne's World 2" Garth's romantic liaison with Kim Basinger. The latter was one of the seemingly unlikely but ultimately inspired castings in the movies, two others being Rob Lowe and Christopher Walken, not to mention the cameo by Charlton Heston in the second picture.

I find the plot of the first film to be somewhat unoriginal - evil businessmen and media moguls exploit and ruin innocent and vibrant youth culture - but it is so well executed and entertaining that this hardly matters.

In some ways I prefer "Wayne's World 2" to its predecessor. The plot revolving around a rock festival is more interesting. The writing is sharper, the musical content is cooler (Bad Company, Edgar Winter Group, Golden Earring etc.) and it feels more like a real story. In addition, the sequel is imbued with instant validity by virtue of the appearance by Harry Shearer of Spinal Tap fame!

There are some stellar and engaging scenes in the second movie - the launderette encounter between Garth and Kim Basinger, the martial-arts-film-spoof involving Wayne and Cassandra's father, and of course the great "Village People" parody.

My main gripe would be that a similar "alternative endings" formula was employed in both films. However, both remain fine, feel-good entertainment.

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