Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Movie – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

If you have never seen the film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure then allow me to introduce you to Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan, two most excellent dudes who have a great future ahead of them – if they can only pass History.  What their future is, and how they try to achieve it, make up the fun that is this film.  It features an early, comedic role from Keanu Reeves, as well as a ton of catchphrases that entered everyday language, some of them still with us today.

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are high school students that are far more interested in their band Wyld Stallyns (there was a severe “i” shortage in the late 80s) than in history class.  An example: they think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.  The problem is that they are flunking and if they do, Ted’s dad is going to ship him off to military school.  This would break up the band.

Enter Rufus (George Carlin), a time traveler from hundreds of years in the future.  He tells them that their band will unite humanity and bring lasting peace and utopian living to the world.  He has been sent back in time to ensure that they pass their class, so they can stay together.  Bill and Ted are skeptical, but just then another time machine arrives and they step out of it.  These other versions of themselves tell them they should trust Rufus.  Still skeptical they ask this other Bill and Ted that if they were really them then they’d be able to tell what number they were thinking of.  The other Bill and Ted answer together, “69, dude!”  (quadruple air guitar from both Bill and Teds).

Truth be told, that doesn’t really prove anything, except that they are guys.  I did a humor post related to this.  You can see that here.

Now convinced, Bill and Ted accompany Rufus in the time machine (a phone booth – hello Dr. Who) to the era of Napoleon.  Bill and Ted need to do a presentation on how three different historical figures would react to life in present day San Dimas, California where they live.  Through a mishap they accidentally bring Napoleon back with them.  Rufus leaves them in charge of the time machine, so dumping Napoleon on Ted’s younger brother, they head off through the ages.  They bring back Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc (not Noah’s wife, the other one), and Abraham Lincoln, among others.

When they get back they discover that Ted’s brother has let Napoleon wander off because “he’s a dick” and the brother got tired of being around him.  They look for Napoleon and discover him at a waterpark, named Waterloo, of course.

All the other historic figures are not just passive.  They also get in trouble at the mall, and some get arrested.  Picture a police psychologist trying to interview Sigmund Freud.  Bill and Ted seem to understand the uses of a time machine better than a lot of Hollywood screenwriters.  When they get into a jam they just make a mental note to come back to this time to help themselves once they get out of the jam.  For instance, when they need to escape from the police they make a note to remember a trashcan.  Suddenly a trashcan (with “Wyld Stallyns Rule” written on it) crashes into the guy blocking their escape.

Will Bill and Ted get to the presentation and pass their History class?  Does Bill have a really hot step-mom?  Does Ted constantly remind him of this?  Does Napoleon like waterparks?  Does Genghis Khan hate malls?  And is Lincoln a most excellent dude?

While the term “dude” had been around for a long time, and had never completely fallen out of use, it was revived in the late 1980s with a different meaning.  It popped up in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“He’s a righteous dude”), but Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure just made it explode back into everyday usage.  Another catchphrase from this film was “Party On!” which two guys named Wayne and Garth adopted as their own catchphrase.  Without this film there might not have been a Wayne’s World, and there certainly would not have been a Dude, Where’s My Car (although that might have been a good thing.)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure had cameos from Clarence Clemons, Martha Davis, and Fee Waybill as the future leaders who send Rufus on his mission.  And if you don’t know who any of those people are, please expand your musical knowledge.  Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos also was in the film, playing Joan of Arc.

A buddy and I rented this movie back when it first came to VHS because it had “one of the guys from Lost Boys [Winter]” and “that guy from The Night Before [Reeves]”.  We didn’t even know their names.  As it turns out, they both made this film before those others.  It had sat on the shelf for more than a year due to the bankruptcy of the studio that produced it.  It was also almost dumped on the direct to video market because the studio didn’t know how to market it.  Thankfully they did release it and the rest is, well, history.

If you like movies that don’t take themselves too seriously, then this is the one for you.  It is a lot of fun.  You get to laugh both at and with the two main characters.  There was a sequel – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – that brought them back together.  It was not as good as the first film, but it was still fun.  Unless you feel history is not a subject fit for humor then I highly recommend Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Oh, and one more thing you should know: “San Dimas High School football rules!”

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  1. I love this film. I can never get tired of watching that. Especially the second film which I think is a better film than the first since there's more that they go through and a lot of hilarious moments that includes a great take on Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.

    1. "You might be a king or a little street sweeper,
      But sooner or later you dance with the reaper."

      I don't know how many of us have seen both The Seventh Seal and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Gotta love The Grim Reaper trying to beat Bill and Ted at Clue, Battleship, etc. "Best 2 out of 3!"

    2. "Best of 7?" "You damn right!!!!"

  2. What a fantastic point about knowing the rules of time travel better than Hollywood screen writers! Also you neglected to mention the upcoming reboot/remake/threequel. Or has that been canned?

    1. "What a fantastic point about knowing the rules of time travel better than Hollywood screen writers!"


      "Also you neglected to mention the upcoming reboot/remake/threequel. Or has that been canned?"

      As far as I know it is still only rumored. I believe Keanu Reeves gave an interview where he was jokingly asked about doing another Bill & Ted movie and he responded "why not?" It spread like wildfire and sometime in the next couple of days people were already asking him how they would make a movie without George Carlin, who has died. He responded that they would only do it if they could figure that out. I took all of that as an actor smart enough to not rule anything out, rather than one that was actively looking to get a film done. Maybe those comments have sparked action somewhere, but until a movie gets released I take a wait and see attitude.

    2. You got me thinking, I was sure I hadn't been taken in by hype on the third B&T, so I checked imdb which was the source of my original information. It does have a listing but is only quantified by a 118 day old MTV News article so who the hell knows at this point? A shame really, unlike a lot of these terrible movie ideas in Hollywood I would actually have been in to this idea.

  3. Nice review of a fun little movie! It's also surprisingly intelligent, considering the main characters. I love when Bill mentions to Freud that he just has a "minor Oedipal complex."