The Best Movie Critic + review

Favorite Movie Series: Crawford Philleo on Wayne's World

Hey gang, Ben here with an extra special treat for this week's entry into the Favorite Movie Series. Crawford Philleo is quite possibly the hardest working fella in the Denver Metro Area. He writes for the music section of Denver alternative weekly Westword, he is a phenomenal drummer drumming for a phenomenal band, Vitamins, who recently opened for the Flaming Lips(!), and as if that wasn't enough Crawford co-edits and contributes a great deal of content to the Tome to the Weather Machine music blog. Crawford's entry into the Favorite Movie Series is, as expected, insightful and engaging, and with a much different slant than most of the entries in this series. Enjoy...

Stupid, right? Stupid, immature, ridiculous. All words anyone could use to describe Wayne's World. And make no mistake, the decision of "favorite movie" (of all time, mind you) was harder than I ever could have imagined… something I've taken anything but lightly. Let me tell you, deciding on and then actually writing about this movie has caused me significantly more stress than the fate of Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets this season. Yeah. It's been tough. "Come on, Ben," I thought. "Ask me what my favorite record of all time is." Like that would have been any easier. Do I choose by genre? Favorite Western? Film Noir? Do I choose by best acting? Best cinematography? Best lighting? Plot, setting, miss en scene… All those formal elements of film I picked up during my brief interim as a film scholar in college can't save me now. After scrolling my memory for hours upon hours, watching old favorites as many nights of the week as possible (I'll admit, likely to the dismay of many Movie Advocate faithfuls, my personal movie-watching time has significantly decreased since taking on the hefty duties of being an unpaid music blogger), scanning old essays, and combing through the Movie Advocate's wonderful, in-depth archive of posts to try and get an idea of what, truly, my favorite film of all time is…
It's Wayne's World. Wayne's World. Party time. Excellent. So it is: In a nutshell, the funniest movie I've ever seen and one of the biggest catalysts for my love of rock and roll.
The first time I encountered the intrepid adventures of Wayne Campbell, his trusty sidekick Garth Algar, and his monstrous ego so big it has an ego of its own was in a drumset masterclass at Fine Arts Camp during my high school years back home in Fairbanks, Alaska. A very impressionable time for any band geek, to be sure, having a teacher (Mr. Louis Abbott of Miami University) cool enough to screen a comedy about a couple of losers for teenage boys at an institution where said teenage boys were supposed to be getting cultured training for the professional music circuit unlocked something in my brain. Lou was something of a badass. First, an insanely talented drummer, well traveled, rehearsed, experienced, and simply brilliant at his craft. Second, he was a guy who had no qualms discussing his sordid sex life with us, his many infatuations with drugs throughout his career, story after story of live gigs on stages with lights too bright for his poor, dilated pupils, making the man something of an instant obsession when it came to my credulous notions of what it means to be a working musician.

For being just kids, Lou was taking a big risk teaching us what the actual life of a professional drummer was, and those lessons have remained invaluable for me. No, I do not, myself, have anything of an overtly racy sex life, nor do I find myself inclined towards drug and alcohol binges. But the ideas that being a musician and some of these associated lifestyle choices could exist alongside notions of 'legit' music—learned, studied, respected musical practices—was indeed a revelation. This did not mean I would lose my respect for Classical music. This simply meant that rhythm & blues, jazz, funk, and of course rock and roll (here especially, metal) should be regarded with the same kind of respect due to folks willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars on education at a music conservatory. And if you look at the histories of the 'legit' (as Lou called them) art forms, you'll notice that the lives of the many geniuses in the formal arts were/are just as decrepit as Mr. Abbott's, or Mr. Campbell's for that matter. Beethoven was an alcoholic, Mozart was a sex-crazed fiend… the idiot from Shine… these people were all insane. They partied, were promiscuous, and they all, ultimately, made rock and roll. However much of a "loser" Wayne Campbell might have been to a blindly elitist opera-goer, was officially diffused in my brain to the point where a guy making a cable access television show out of his parents' basement seemed as legitimate an art form as an Aria. Also, this loser was now officially my hero.
And I emulated my hero (and still do). Wayne's World was my one and only source of jokes for many, many years. "Sheyheahh" (sp?) "psycho-hose-beast," and "shwing" were forever inscribed in my day-to-day vocabulary. Phrases like "Baberaham Lincoln," inspired me to come up with my own Wayne's Wolrd quips (my favorite being "If she were on PBS, she'd live on Mr. Rogers Babeorhood"). My Junior year of high school, some friends and I contributed to the class spirit competition "Air Band," where each year you picked a theme and lip-synched a set of songs in front of an audience. We built a Mirth-Mobile out of cardboard, spray painted flames on the side, hopped in and ran through Campbell + crew's rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." And come to think of it, Wayne's World actually introduced me to Queen, a band that would become one of my favorite hard rock bands of all time. And if you think any (all) of that is bad, just be thankful I never went all out with the mullet. Although I did dream…

While I was never anything of a huge Wayne's World fan during its many years of faithful service on Saturday Night Live, there's something truly amazing about seeing a young Mike Myers and Dana Carvey putting their all into these characters to bring them to life on the big screen. It's the little details: The way Wayne and Garth walk down the street, strutting like they're God's gifts to women (as opposed to being shackled to the cushions of an old love seat in a comedy sketch). Garth's real name: Damien. Wayne's extensive collection of name tags and hair nets. The fact that Garth's dog has the same hair cut as he does and wears studded bracelets. Wayne and Garth were no longer simply characters. They became icons, of course, but also real(ish) people others wanted to consider their friends. And the friendship they themselves display in the film's more touching moments is so precious and sacred, in such a simple way. When Wayne bolts on the show's debut (after his stunning, riotous cue card humiliation of show sponsor, Noah Vanderhoff of Noah's Arcades) leaving Garth to finish the show by himself, it is so abundantly and obviously clear how much the two need each other. And the resolution is priceless. "Buds?" "Buds." A single-word apology/acceptance to reunite two who work so well together as a team. Two who let the rock talk: True collaborators, cosmically aligned to kick ass like the best of bands.

Myers and Carvey's performances are nothing short of brilliant—every single utterance, look, or action is an absolute knockout. And the Myers' writing—however utterly dumb, morose, or sickening—is equally smart in its assessment of then-current events, pop sensibilities, the ridiculousness of a male-dominated rock culture, and the of course the very notion of Classic Rock, something that just won't seem to die. (And yes, we laugh, but still we know, just as Wayne and Garth do, that this music will really always be awesome.) It's a shame the two went on to produce so much dreck in Wayne's World's titanic wake. But then, we will always have this nugget of brief genius to remember. And it's getting to the point where ours may be one of the last of generations to truly understand why this movie is so great. The rock-geek inside jokes. The many TV and movie references… the "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"'s may be fading from culture's collective memory. These were jokes that were jokes merely because those things actually existed, and some people knew about them.

Of course, Wayne's World is quite obviously dated (the film opens scrolling through TV ads that include the Clapper and Chia Pets, CD players being the most fancy of music playback technology, etc.). The filmic elements, though tight—I do happen to love the first-person narrative, and the way the film foreshadows plot points with in-your-face dramatic ironies abound (see Chris Farley's ingenious cameo as Mr. Biggg record exec, Frankie Sharp's personal security guard)—aren't anything particularly imaginative, original… certainly nothing groundbreaking. The music, even, is actually deplorable for the most part. Cassandra (played by the lovely Tia Carrere) and her band Crucial Taunt, however hard they may whale, are pretty damn awful, despite picking Sweet's unbelievably classic "Ballroom Blitz" for their big audition. So, timeless? Maybe not in the grand scheme of things. But I've seen this movie about a million and half times, and I'll probably see it a million and a half more, and that has to count for something. It's time will not end for me. And the reason I'll always watch and love this movie really has to do with so much more, and it has been an extremely wonderful pleasure to go back to this movie after a several-year draught of not seeing it to pick up on some of the obvious lovage I somehow missed so long ago. It's ultimately a movie about those simple human truths and desires that will endure forever. Wanting something that really doesn't belong to you, and doing everything in your power to achieve your goals ("She will be mine, oh yes. She will be mine."). It is a mantra everyone should adopt and hold onto no matter what the cost. Wayne, however hard he may try to tell you otherwise, is really the underdog. The undeserving. But dammit, he busts his ass at partying, and it really pays off in the end. He's gets his show. He gets his friends. He gets his girl. And he has fun while he's doing it. Oh yeah, and he learns a lesson, too, which is great. But the point for me in the here, now, and forever-always is that all of our dreams aren't so unbelievable, are they? I'm living many of them myself right now… my own blog Tome to the Weather Machine might even be something of a Wayne's World of music blogs. …NOT. I'll let you know when I figure out what that even means… Still, I just know that I've got plenty more partying to do to make the rest of them happen. So party on.


DREAMS by Ryan Hall
GREMLINS by Ryan Thompson
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA by Justin Couch

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Favorite Movie Series: Crawford Philleo on Wayne's World + review