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The Films of Penelope Spheeris

The Decline of Western Civilization


The Boys Next Door

Hollywood Vice Squad


The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

Wayne's World (October 22/13)

Inspired, of course, by the Saturday Night Live sketches, Wayne's World follows Mike Myers' Wayne Campbell and Dana Carvey's Garth Algar as they agree to take their public-access show to the national stage. There's little doubt that Wayne's World remains one of the best movies to emerge from SNL's celebrated stages, as the film, directed by Penelope Spheeris, effectively takes the central characters out of their infamous basement without sacrificing their charm or goofy innocence. It doesn't hurt, either, that Spheeris, working from a screenplay by Myers, Bonnie Turner, and Terry Turner, has expanded the teenage duo's universe to include a number of memorable periphery figures, with Tia Carrere's Cassandra, Wayne's love interest, and Rob Lowe's Benjamin Kane, the smarmy villain, certainly standing head-and-shoulders above a very capable supporting cast. As befits its sketch-comedy origins, Wayne's World has been infused with a pervasively irreverent sense of humor that proves impossible to resist - with many of the film's jokes and gags, from the consistent breaking of the fourth wall to Ed O'Neill's hilarious turn as a shell-shocked donut-shop employee, provoking genuine laughs from the viewer. And although the movie admittedly does peter out slightly in its final 15 minutes - the emphasis is increasingly placed on aggressively conventional elements - Wayne's World is ultimately a better-than-average comedy that benefits substantially from the endlessly charismatic efforts of its two stars.

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The Beverly Hillbillies (December 7/04)

It's fitting that The Beverly Hillbillies is based on a popular sitcom, given that the film feels perfectly suited to the small screen. There's nothing terrible cinematic about the movie, which has all the style of an episode of the series. Director Penelope Spheeris (who has helmed several other visually unimpressive flicks, including The Little Rascals and Black Sheep) admittedly does a nice job of keeping things moving, but really, this is the sort of flick that's best left to the kids. The movie's set-up is identical to that of the series, with Jed Clampett (played by Jim Varney) hitting it big after discovering an extensive reservoir of oil underneath his property - which paves the way for a series of fish-out-of-water segments featuring Jed and his various family members (including Diedrich Bader's Jethro, Cloris Leachman's Granny, and Erika Eleniak's Elly May). It's hard to say exactly where The Beverly Hillbillies goes wrong, though it'd be hard not to lay blame at the film's overwhelming innocuousness. That it took four people to write the screenplay doesn't come as much of a surprise, given that pretty much every single joke lands with a thud (the film has the vibe of something cobbled together by committee). There's nothing offensive or surprising about the movie, and indeed, the majority of the story plays out just the way one might expect (eg the villain receives an appropriately humiliating comeuppance). The film's sole saving grace is the charisma of the various actors, particularly Varney - who firmly leaves all traces of Ernest behind him. Varney is essentially required to play straight man to everyone in the cast, and there's no denying that he does a fine job of turning Jed into an actual character (rather than an overblown caricature). His costars effectively channel their small-screen predecessors, with Bader and Leachman obvious standouts. The Beverly Hillbillies doesn't require the viewer to have seen the original show, though it is possible fans may derive more enjoyment out of the film than neophytes (simply because they can marvel at how accurate the whole thing is, while overlooking the general lack of creativity on display).

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The Little Rascals

Black Sheep

The Decline of Western Civilization Part III


We Sold Our Souls for Rock 'n Roll

The Crooked E: The Unshredded Truth About Enron

The Kid & I

Balls to the Wall

The Real St. Nick

© David Nusair