The key to the film’s magnificence, and the character that takes it from just “very funny” to “complete masterpiece”, is Wayne’s best friend Garth Algar, played incredibly by Dana Carvey.
Garth is a misfit, a super shy nerd who got his pubes very late (Dana was 37 when he shot this, Mike 29), and won’t touch anyone (refused a high-five from the late Meat Loaf in the “Shitty Beatles “scene) – there’s a lot of speculation online that the character might have Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but a bit of Aerosmith comes along and he’s in his element.
In fact, the whole movie is like a love letter to the joy of finding your thing.
Director Penelope Spheeris knows a lot about people finding their thing. At the time of making Wayne’s World, she had directed the first two parts of her groundbreaking documentary trilogy The Decline Of Western Civilization. The first involved her spending two years in the Los Angeles punk scene while the second was subtitled The Metal Years. While making these, she spent a lot of time with people who had found their thing – lifers dedicated to the music they love.
She understood the seemingly paradoxical combinations of absurdity and deadly seriousness, of hard work and ridiculous excess, of utter seriousness and frivolity that proved – and continues to prove – so intoxicating. As she told Vanity Fair, “I knew something about headbangers.”
The catchy Bohemian Rhapsody sequence, despite being one of the most beloved parts of the film, was in most people’s opinion incredibly unpleasant to film. Mike and Penelope clashed endlessly, as take after take took its toll on the cast’s neck muscles. The director told Entertainment Weekly of Mike, after four hours of painkiller-assisted headbutting: “You should have heard him bitching when I was trying to do that Bohemian Rhapsody scene: ‘I can’t move. my neck like that! Why do we have to do this so many times? Nobody’s gonna laugh about that! »
Mike also threatened to quit the film altogether if a different song was used. He told the WTF With Marc Maron podcast: “[Penelope and the producers] wanted Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses were very, very popular, they were a fantastic band. […] Queen, at that time, not by me or die-hard fans, but the public kind of forgot about them. freddy [Mercury] had gotten sick, the last time we saw them was on Live Aid and then there were a couple of albums after that where they sort of moved away from their arena rock roots. But I always liked Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought it was a masterpiece. So I fought really, really hard for it. And at one point I said, “Well, I’m out, I don’t want to do this movie if it’s not Bohemian Rhapsody.” “
It was the right choice. The scene brought the song back to the charts, dropping it to number two in the US where it had previously peaked at nine – not bad for a 15-year-old track. A new video incorporating footage from the film was released, which mortified Mike, comparing it to “whistling on a Picasso”. Dana obviously doesn’t know the words, speaking nonsense, but somehow it works.