Release Date(s)1992 (November 15, 2022)
Studio(s)Paramount Home Entertainment
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: This is a co-review by Stephen Bjork and Tim Salmons. Stephen primarily reviewed the film and extras, while Tim covered the video and audio.]
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.
Wayne’s World was shot by cinematographer Theo van de Sande on Super 35 mm using Arriflex 35 BL3 cameras and Clairmont lenses, finished photochemically, and framed at the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Paramount upgrades the film to Ultra HD with a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included). As many are likely aware, Wayne’s World has had a rocky relationship with home video, from misframed presentations to altered soundtracks. Thankfully, Paramount has gone the extra mile here with the most accurate theatrical representation of the film to date. This is a highly organic Ultra HD presentation with a mostly solid yield of fine grain with a bitrate that runs primarily from the upper 70s to lower 80s. A mild bit of noise removal has been applied judiciously, perhaps a little too much in a couple of places (the scene in Benjamin’s apartment is a tad too clean), but nothing that ruins the film-like quality of the overall picture. The new HDR grade blows the gamut wide open with a much richer palette, including bolder swatches of red on Benjamin’s candy red Cadillac, as well Tia Carrere’s gorgeous red outfit during the finale. Blacks are natural with near perfect contrast and the overall picture is stable and clean. It’s definitely the best the film has ever looked on home video, blowing its previous DVD and Blu-ray releases right out of the water.
The main audio option is a new English Dolby Atmos track, which is Dolby 7.1 TrueHD compatible. Wayne’s World was released theatrically in Dolby Stereo, and once again, that track is still packed away in Paramount’s vaults. However, the new Atmos track adds dimension to the film’s raucous hard rock soundtrack. The overheads aren’t overly abundant, but it’s a much more immersive track than the previous 5.1 experience. The only real issue is an odd audio blip at the 50:18 mark where the sound (mostly the Kix song Cold Chills) slips from the right ear to the left for less than half a second. It’s brief, but noticeable. The rest of the track fills out the room nicely with the dialogue situated comfortably in the front and the music laying waste to the surrounding speakers. For instance, in the “No Stairway, denied” scene, Garth’s drumming outburst explodes all around the soundscape and seems to get louder and louder. Speaking of which...
...the best thing about this new audio track is that it finally, at long last, restores the Stairway to Heaven notes as played by Wayne on guitar during the music store scene, which was altered for all home video releases of the film until now. This is hugely important because it re-instates a joke that made no sense once it was altered. Granted it’s only a joke that anybody who’s ever worked or shopped with some frequency in a music store would get, but just the idea that one would frown upon anybody playing Stairway to Heaven in their store because it’s played so often is funny enough on its own. That joke never played once you couldn’t actually hear the notes, and for that alone, this release is a major step up from all other home video versions of the film. Thank you Paramount for finally fixing it after all these years.
Other audio options include German, Spanish (Spain), French, Italian, and Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital, as well as Spanish (Latin American) 1.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, German, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin American), French, Italian, and Japanese.
Wayne’s World on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case with new 30th Anniversary artwork on the insert and slipcover. A Digital Code on a paper insert is included inside the package. The following extras are included:
- Audio Commentary with Penelope Spheeris
- Extreme Close-Up (Upscaled HD w/HDR – 23:14)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD w/HDR – 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.
As Stephen noted in his previous review of the Blu-ray Steelbook re-release, Wayne’s World definitely deserved a bit more TLC than Paramount had given it for its 30th Anniversary, and they’ve delivered here with improved visual and aural quality, but also restoring the film to its theatrical form for the first time. Previous editions are now useless. This is the release to own.
- Stephen Bjork w/Tim Salmons