Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey), the scruffy, suburban-metal-head heroes of Wayne’s World, exist in a happy myopic daze: Whatever happens in their lives, they experience it as if they were watching it on television. When Wayne tells a joke he especially likes, he turns to his listener and breaks into a big, bedazzled grin of silence — a freeze-frame. He isn’t laughing, exactly; he’s signifying laughter. (He’s a game-show host in his own mind.) At a rock club, Wayne gazes up at Cassandra (Tia Carrere), the luscious lead singer of the band on stage, and knows that she’s the one for him. As starry lights surround her, he hears the ethereal synthesizer strains of Gary Wright’s ”Dream Weaver” — he can hardly have his big romantic moment without giving it a proper soundtrack — and then, in an enraptured voice, he says to himself, ”She will be mine! Oh, yes, she will be mine!” Doubtless, he heard that one on TV, too.

When Wayne and Garth first showed up on Saturday Night Live, they seemed like your basic, everyday mindless youth wastrels — i.e., Bill and Ted with a public-access show. Yet Wayne and Garth aren’t stupid; raised on computers and commercials, they have eager, hyperactive minds. The joke is that their brains can’t access anything that hasn’t already been processed by the media. They’re ’70s burnouts who get stoned on pop culture. The movie, which is set in Aurora, Ill., a Chicago suburb that looks suspiciously like L.A. (it’s full of empty downtown streets and babes with big hair), is about how Wayne and Garth get a chance to move their cable show to a ritzy Chicago station. Can they avoid selling out? Can Wayne stop their yuppie-slimedog manager (Rob Lowe) from stealing his new girlfriend?

As a movie, Wayne’s World isn’t much more than an amiable goof, yet it’s carried along by the flaked-out exuberance of its two stars. The script could have used a better quotient of sharp gags. As it is, there are clever potshots at movie product placement and ”Stairway to Heaven,” and that’s about it. The film moves quickly, though, and it isn’t overinflated, like The Blues Brothers or Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. It simply gives Myers and Carvey a chance to do inspired riffs on characters we know well.

Myers, like Martin Short, works in his own lyrical stratosphere. There’s a joyousness to him that’s almost childlike. His pie-eyed Wayne, who’s always tucking his hair behind his ear (it’s his form of preening), treats the very notion that he might actually have a mind as a kind of running in-joke. When Wayne, speaking in his singsong deadpan, makes one of his meticulously infantile jokes (ordering Chinese take-out, he says he’d like ”the cream of sum yung guy”), his innocent daze of pleasure tells you that he thinks he’s being naughty and subversive. The truth, of course, is that he’s the soul of harmlessness — a middle-class layabout who lives with his parents and rots his brain on television. Wayne’s true world is the one between his ears: His ”rebellion” amounts to a series of impish verbal tics no one else even registers. He’s never happier than when he can deliver a zinger as if it were the friendliest compliment imaginable. It’s a clever caveman’s form of wit.

Dana Carvey’s horn-rimmed, Ritalin- taking Garth — a computer nerd trying to pass as a rock & roller — is the nervous ego to Wayne’s ecstatic id. The whole joke of this character is encapsulated in the tortured way Carvey holds his mouth. Garth imagines himself a happy-go-lucky smiling charmer just like Wayne, but those awful pursed lips of his give him away; his smirk is held in check by layers of wimpish resentment. The movie’s high point comes when Garth, eyeing the waitress he dreams about, does a ”hot” fantasy strut across a coffee shop to the tune of Jimi Hendrix’s ”Foxey Lady.” Carvey takes Garth’s stiff-bodied geekiness to the nth power.

Director Penelope Spheeris, who made the brilliant heavy-metal documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II (1988), doesn’t let the rinky-dink plot get in the way of the jokes. Still, the comedy never builds to a true explosion. The biggest mistake was making Cassandra a generic looker. Couldn’t she have had some eccentricities to match up with Wayne’s? And how could Wayne stomach the horrendous pop-rock numbers she plays? All in all, though, the movie has a pleasing daftness. Maybe one reason these two characters have had such resonance for the aging Saturday Night Live audience is that, with their gentle, space-cadet zeal, Wayne and Garth are really the last hippies-smart-ass flower children for the information age. They’re hippies without a revolution, and in Wayne’s World, they keep you grinning. B

Wayne's World
  • Movie
  • 95 minutes