Release Date(s)1992 (February 1, 2022)
Studio(s)Paramount Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
When Wayne’s World was released in 1992, it managed to achieve something that had been elusive for most other SNL properties: box office success. Wayne’s World wasn't just mildly successful, either; instead, it was a sizable hit. That came as a surprise to everyone involved, the filmmakers included, and it launched a wave of features that tried to cash in on its success, including Coneheads, It’s Pat, and Stuart Saves His Family. They all failed.
Ironically enough, the reason why Wayne’s World was different may come down to its complete lack of ambition. The story concocted by Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, or place the basic skit into any kind of larger context. Instead, Wayne’s World is a show about the show, with freely blurred lines between the two. Wayne and Garth talk directly to the camera during their cable access show, but when it's not running, they talk directly to the audience instead, breaking the fourth wall in an identical way. As a result, the entire film becomes little more than a functional extension of the SNL skit—it’s a show about doing a show, done in the same style as the show.
While Wayne’s World does have something of an overarching plot involving Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) selling their program to an unscrupulous television executive (Rob Lowe), it never lets that plot get in the way of the comedy. Even the subplot with Cassandra (Tia Carrere) is kept appropriately secondary to the bits; the perfunctory story is never allowed to kill the film's momentum.
Full credit for that momentum also needs to go to director Penelope Spheeris. She was very comfortable with the headbanger milieu after having directed The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, so she was able to focus on efficiently shooting as much as she could on a limited budget and an even more limited schedule. Along with editor Malcolm Campbell, she kept things moving at all times, and they weren’t afraid to let throwaway gags slip by in the background of shots, such as when Garth is sucking his jelly donut through a straw. They also didn't allow the myriad cameos bog things down—watch for quick moments with Chris Farley, Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper, Ed O’Neil, Colleen Camp, Donna Dixon, Ione Skye, Robert Patrick, and more.
That momentum is crucial to the film, as Myers has always been prone to excessive mugging, but he’s kept in check here by tighter editing. The real surprise was that Rob Lowe had impeccable comic timing of his own, and needed no such guidance. Wayne’s World may have launched a film career for Myers, but it also revitalized the career of Lowe. Thanks to the efforts of all involved, Wayne’s World still holds up surprisingly well thirty years down the road.
Versatile cinematographer Theo van de Sande shot Wayne’s World in the Super 35 mm format using Arriflex 35 BL3 cameras with Clairmont lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. While the film itself may hold up well despite the dated pop culture references, Paramount’s aging master is getting a bit long in the tooth. Reframed at 1.78:1, the image is adequate but unexceptional. It’s reasonably detailed, and the grain hasn’t been scrubbed away, but it sometimes has a digital appearance. That’s true of the transfer as a whole, which never quite looks filmic and natural. The colors and contrast are fine, though there’s crush in the blacks—for example, the detail in Wayne’s black T-shirt occasionally washes out during darker scenes. It would have been nice if Paramount could have broken out a fresh scan in honor of the 30th anniversary of what’s still the highest-grossing film based on an SNL property, but at least the old master isn’t a bad one.
Audio is offered in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Surround, and Spanish Mono, with optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles. Wayne’s World was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, and while the original mix isn’t included here, this 5.1 remix seems to be primarily a discrete encoding of the four matrixed channels from that Dolby Stereo mix. It’s not particularly immersive, though there’s surround engagement during moments like the airplane flyovers, and there’s a bit of directionalized effects across the front channels, but most of the sonic energy is provided by the music. Speaking of which, note that like all home video releases of Wayne’s World, this version contains the altered version of Wayne playing Stairway to Heaven in the guitar store, with a random riff replacing the first few notes of the song. Those haven’t been heard since the original theatrical release thanks to licensing issues with Led Zeppelin. Once again, it would have been nice if Paramount had shelled out the money to fix that issue for the film’s anniversary, but it didn’t happen.
Since this is the same disc as previous editions, Paramount’s 30th Anniversary “Party On” Steelbook release of Wayne’s World brings nothing new to the table other than the Steelbook itself, which is admittedly an eye-catching design. It uses images from the poster artwork, surrounded by quotes from the film, on an unusually vivid orange background. There’s a Digital code on a paper insert tucked inside, but otherwise it’s the same limited selection of extras as before:
- Audio Commentary with Penelope Spheeris
- Extreme Close-up (SD – 23:14)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:06)
Spheeris is enthusiastic and energetic during her commentary, frequently laughing at the jokes in her own film. She points out some interesting facts, like how she had to shoot most scenes her way, then Mike’s way, then Dana’s way, just to keep the peace between them, but that gave her a lot of flexibility in the editing room—and she’s happy to admit that her own choices weren’t always the right ones. Shooting like that was difficult to pull off in a tight 34-day schedule, as was getting product clearances on the fly for all the pop culture jokes. She also acknowledges the influence of Lorne Michaels on the production, with his insistence on always doing the unexpected—a principle that plays out during scenes like the backstage visit with Alice Cooper. This isn’t a track that’s going to change any minds about the film, but for fans of Wayne’s World or Penelope Spheeris, it’s worth a listen.
Extreme Close-up is a vintage DVD era making-of featurette that includes interviews with Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Rob Lowe, Tia Carrere, Penelope Spheeris, and Lorne Michaels. It covers the origins of the Wayne and Garth characters, what it was liking making the transition from television to film, and stories from the production. Michaels notes that the script was written to be modular so that if a sketch didn’t work, it could simply be removed without hurting the story. That actually explains a lot about why the film works the way it does. While there was some improv, the tight production schedule didn’t leave much room for it. Spheeris explains how important it was to her to have the music propel the film and provide momentum. Extreme Close-up is understandably a bit shallow as it only runs twenty-three minutes, but it still has a few interesting insights about what makes the film work.
Wayne’s World definitely deserved a bit more TLC than Paramount has given it for its 30th anniversary, and there’s no reason to pick up this edition if you own any of the previous ones, unless you’re a hardcore Steelbook fan. If you don’t own it, however, this is certainly the best-looking package available for a film that’s always worth revisiting.
- Stephen Bjork