Since 1980, there have been about a dozen feature films developed from Saturday Night Live characters and sketches, and only two of them have garnered sequels: Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) and Wayne’s World 2 (1993). While the sequel to 1980’s critical and commercial success The Blues Brothers took nearly two decades to come to fruition, Wayne’s World 2 was released only one year after Wayne’s World (1992) and grossed a staggering $200 million worldwide on a $20 million budget, turning Wayne and Garth into pop-culture icons on screens both big and small.
The first feature offered more of the same from Wayne and Garth, adopting and expanding upon the cultural misfit schtick that had made them stalwarts of SNL for years. Amidst the requisite utterings of “schwing” and expected cameos from rock-music luminaries like Alice Cooper and Meat Loaf, the film had Wayne and Garth take on the very TV industry that made them famous, in the context of the both film’s narrative and the very real commercial realities of the SNL ecosystem. The sequel largely abandons the broadcast frequencies for a barrage of vignettes targeting the music industry, with Wayne and Garth deadset on starting a music festival (named Wayne Stock, naturally). It takes the more palatable comedy of the first film—directed by Penelope Spheeris, who dealt with similar material in the 1987 slacker comedy Dudes—and makes it more irreverent, with many sequences bordering on the zaniness of a Jim Abrahams or David Zucker parody.
This tonal shift makes sense as the sequel was directed by Stephen Surjik, who spent the prior three years helming episodes of The Kids In the Hall, and here runs Wayne and Garth through a similarly erratic series of pratfalls, innuendos, and sight gags that happen so quickly repeat viewings are required to catch it all. The obvious audience here are the droves of people who saw, and seemingly loved, the first film. Paramount gave Surjik double the budget that Spheeris had at her disposal, allowing for the sequel to include more expensive set pieces such as an extended kung-fu fight scene (with comedic dubbing) and a fully realized Wayne Stock concert with a performance by Aerosmith. Surjik also brings his own brand of irreverent sketch comedy, running the gamut from multiple jokes about doing laundry to Garth losing his virginity and Wayne having bizarre nightmares featuring an existential quest in which he talks to Sammy Davis Jr. (played by fellow SNL alum Tim Meadows). It’s a much less cohesive and tidy film than Spheeris’s original, and unsurprisingly suffered commercially, earning not even half of what the first film grossed. But Surjik’s cartoonish, rapid-fire approach to the inanity of Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey’s iconic characters is not only a great, underrated sequel but 95 minutes of portent that the ’90s were going to embrace the weirder side of comedy. Jim Carrey was set to become a household name the following year with both Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb & Dumber. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hurl.
Wayne’s World 2 screens tonight, September 26, at BAM in 35mm as part of the series “Still Film + At the Movies.”