Mondo Wayne-O

updated 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

A LAIN CHABAT AND DOMINIQUE FARRUGIA, who live in a nation that once upon a time gave the world René Descartes, have now seen Wayne's World, they figure, 26 times each. "We're very good fans," says Chabat, 34, in mildly fractured English. "We laugh the first time, it was too stupid."

The perfect attitude, it turns out, since it was Chabat and Farrugia, 30, popular comedians on Les Nuls (France's equivalent of Saturday Night Live), who took up the challenge of dubbing the phenomenally successful, extremely American comedy about Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey). The two lamebrain suburban teens play air guitar, worship Alice Cooper, host a cable-access show and communicate in their own skanky-dopey lingo that leaves nondudes (like, say, corporate lawyers or parents) mystified. Most famously, when they feel their hormones stirred by the sight—or even thought—of a babe, they shout, "Schwing!"

Well, my friend, Wayne's World has proved to be un hit in France—and much the rest of the world, adding to its $120 million stateside take another $52 million to date, thanks to foreign fans from Tokyo to Budapest. The film, in fact, has been dubbed or subtitled into 16 languages, including German, Hebrew, Dutch and Swedish.

What a happy ending for a story that could have been Yahoo Serious all over again. (You do remember Serious, don't you? the dorky young Australian star's 1988 hometown smash comedy, Young Einstein, died once it came up from Down Under.) When Wayne's World was first shown to European theater owners last May in London, "there were a lot of blank expressions," says Hy Smith, senior vice president of United International Pictures, which handles overseas distribution of the Paramount movie. "They thought it didn't have a chance."

The country-by-country solution was to hire translator-dubbers like Chabat and Farrugia, who understood the young, the hip and the doofy within their borders.

The French duo, luckily, had previously seen tapes of the skit in its Saturday Night origins, but even they didn't immediately get the movie's parody of "Shirley and Laverne," as Chabat puts it. Their main translating trick was using verlan, a local teenage slang that scrambles words. "Weird," for instance, became zarb (from bizarre), and "party" became teuf (from fête).

The toughie, though, was finding an equivalent to the classic Wayne-and-Garth declaration "not!" (As in "George Bush was re-elected—not!") Given the peculiar syntax of the French negative, it won't do to simply loss off a pas! at the end of a line. So Chabat and Ferrugia fell back on the word nul (void). "But 'not!' is better," admits Chabat.

"Not" has, sadly, been the tone of baffled Euro-reviewers. "This movie goes nowhere," complained one Austrian critic, adding, "It owes its enormous box office success in the U.S. to watered-down socio-stylistic realities." But you know that's really bogus. "What Wayne's World shows is a happy world," says Hungarian pop star Robert Szikora, who dubs Wayne for his compatriots. "And if our economy gets better and better, it's what Hungary will be like someday."

Party on, Bob.

STANLEY YOUNG in Los Angeles

From Our Partners