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Party On, Wayne — From TV to Movies

3 minute read
Richard Corliss

Wayne Campbell, star of Wayne’s World, is a mush-minded dweeb whose success prefigures the collapse of civilization . . . Not! (There, we’ve done our mandatory aping of Wayneglish, that newly epidemic subspecies of English that certifies Wayne as this month’s pop-cultural phenom.) Actually, he is a fairly learned dude; his I.Q. could match those of Bill and Ted and still have points % left over for Homer Simpson. Wayne’s vocabulary is abundant with synonyms for the verb vomit: hurl, spew, honk. With his Chinese girlfriend he can chat in Cantonese. And only Wayne noticed that two actors played Darrin on Bewitched: “Dick Sargent, Dick York. Sargent York. Wow.”

These days plenty of wows are wafting through Hollywood. Wayne’s World, the whimsical but relevant movie expanded from a recurring bit on TV’s Saturday Night Live, reeled in an impressive — no, an excellent — $18 million in its opening weekend. Not since The Blues Brothers, a 1980 movie spun off from SNL characters, has a TV skit provided the cue for such a quick movie moneymaker. But The Blues Brothers’ tab ran a chunky $30 million; Wayne’s World cost less than $15 million and reaped lots of cheap promotion with an MTV special. For an industry eager to trim the bloat on spiraling spending, the message is clear. “The public doesn’t care how much a movie costs,” says Barry London, head of marketing at Paramount, which released Wayne’s World as well as another TV-to-movie hit, The Addams Family. “They just want value for their entertainment dollar.”

But what’s the value in a stretched sketch about two heavy-metal heads — Wayne (Mike Myers) and his sidekick, Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) — who do a cheap cable-TV show from Wayne’s basement? Well, it’s sorta funny, and most genial: for all their ranking on parents and drooling over hot babes, Wayne and Garth are innocent kids wasting time creatively. “It’s about two friends who have nothing but can make things fun,” says the film’s director, Penelope Spheeris. “Kids see this and say, ‘O.K., I don’t have much, but I can still have a good time.’ ” Lorne Michaels, the producer of both SNL and WW, finds that the movie “resonates for kids who came of age in the ’70s. It’s their movie the way American Graffiti belonged to people who grew up in the ’50s.”

So, will Myers, the Toronto native and Second City comedy alum who created the character and co-wrote the film, become the George Lucas of the ’90s? Don’t ask just now; the instant star is “having an out-of-body experience” relishing approval of a character he has played for more than 10 years. But he is modest about his achievement: “We just wrote something we thought was funny,” he says, “and hoped the universe would accept it.”

Hollywood surely accepts the movie’s message: laughter is the least expensive therapy. And audiences may happily parrot another Wayneism to Myers: “He shoots! He scores!” !

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