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Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

A movie directed by Stephen Herek

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Most Excellent!

  • Aug 7, 2013
Rating:
+5
There are a million movies which could be claimed to sum up everything about the 1980's, but none of them seem to do it so succinctly as one teen movie that was released at the tail end of the decade. I'm not even talking about a John Hughes movie here. I'm talking about Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I have to use that example because virtually everything about it screams the 80's. It piggybacks a popular plot device, using time travel as its instigator since Back to the Future was so big back then. It's a magnificent display of the great gaudiness which swamped and drowned everything from the clothes to the music.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is wall to wall, floor to ceiling shimmering tackiness. The two main characters are a pair of California surfing' dudes named Bill Preston and Ted Logan. They're two perfectly decent teenagers from San Dimas who dream of starting their own big time rock band called Wyld Stallyns. Unfortunately, they're kinda lousy musicians, but for the purposes of this movie, that doesn't count. They're lousier students, and that DOES count because Ted's pop is a Military drill Sergeant-type who's looking for the first excuse which crops up to ship his boy to a Military Academy in Alaska. He's found his excuse, too: There's a big history report coming at the end of the week which Bill and Ted MUST ace if they want to have any hope of passing. If they fail, Ted goes bye-bye. In the future, a man simply known as Rufus puts on his pair of bitchin' shades and walks into a phone booth. This isn't just any old phone booth - it's a time machine, and Rufus is going back to the past to help the boys with their history report. Why, you ask, does this history report matter so much to Rufus? It's because the boys actually DID manage to start their band, and their band became greater than The Beatles. Unlike The Beatles, Wyld Stallyns truly did change the world. So if Ted gets shipped off to Alaska, it would have disastrous ramifications on futuretown.

So the gist of the movie is that Rufus is returning to San Dimas in the 1980's to play the tutor. He has a hell of a way of tutoring: He leaves Bill and Ted with his time machine and lets them take it back to various eras in the past to see everything for themselves, just as it happened. Indeed begins an adventure which is most excellent!

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is actually more about the act of time travel and bringing people out of their natural habitats than anything else. We see a very limited number of Bill and Ted's adventures in the past. Yes, shenanigans ensue when they retrieve Billy the Kid and Socrates, and they try to make a play at a pair of princesses in medieval times who are bound to marry some royal ugly dudes. They also visit the future and the prehistoric years. Really, there's this thing in 80's movies called a montage - it's a series of shots which show a character or a bunch of characters getting something done, no fuss, no muss. Most of the time travel in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is done in this way.

The movie levels back out when the boys return to San Dimas so they can actually get the report done. Their collection of great historical figures - which includes luminaries such as Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln - helps them do chores, then goes rampaging in the local shopping mall, learning wonderful things about 20th century life.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is in no way serious about its time travel. There aren't any long-term consequences mulled over, discussed, or even mentioned in any capacity unless you count Rufus telling Bill and Ted what would happen if Ted went to Alaska and their band never formed. Time travel is only in this movie to be funny, especially once our favorite historical figures hit the mall, and Napoleon hits the water park. After the mall sequence, the history dudes have to be sprung from the local jail by Bill and Ted, who use a series of previously-placed devices their past selves laid out for their convenience. The explanation for that is actually pretty simple.

This movie came out in 1989, so the hubris of the 80's is very obvious in this movie. The movie even opens with one of those ubiquitous future domes, complete with a giant crystal and synthesized rock music. Bill and Ted both talk with surfer boy accents (and very thick ones at that), and wear loud clothes. Honestly, though, that's one of its appeals. It's a very funny movie which actually seems funnier in hindsight because you can't help but laugh at the dated culture. It's also a weird preview into the early 90's, because eternal buddies Bill and Ted come off as an early version of popular 90's duo Wayne and Garth, complete with the random explosions of air guitar and the surfer lingo. Especially the periodic shouts of "excellent" and words like "bogus," a lot of which have turned into quotable memes of sorts. Hell, even Rufus - who comes off like the wise sage - speaks almost exclusively in Bill and Ted's declarative quips.

The declarative quipping really makes the writing a hoot! This is one of those movies that seems written mostly so you'll remember the script right down to every if, and, or but. Even the little brother packs an attitude; when he is angrily scolded about why he left Napoleon to his own devices, the kid simply says "He was a dick!" When Rufus makes his entrance to Bill and Ted in a convenience store parking lot while the two of them are trying to do their research, their initial reaction is to asked Rufus when the Mongols ruled China. Rufus responds, "Well, perhaps we can ask them!" Abraham Lincoln making a declaration to PARTY ON! at the end of his speech at the history report always makes me crack a smile.

The characters who don't speak English get chances to shine with more physical gags. Joan of Arc takes over an aerobics class while Beethoven plays on electronic keyboards. Watching Genghis Khan beat up a store dummy never gets old.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is one of the last truly great mindless comedies. You flip on the movie, and flip off your brain.

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August 10, 2013
excellent!! (review) did you like the sequel?
August 11, 2013
I tend to block out the sequel.
 
August 07, 2013
Interesting!
 
1
More Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventu... reviews
review by . July 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
On the surface this seems like a dumb movie -- which it probably is to most -- but I loved it growing up and it still holds true seeing it and it's sequel as an adult. They are both fun, a little cheesy, and original. I mean, who else has people time traveling in a phone booth?!      Pros - Has the late great George Carlin, Keanu Reeves before anyone cared who he was or thought he could act and the second one has William Sandler as one of the best portrayals of the Grim Reaper …
review by . December 26, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
This film vouchsafed us the megastardom of that great contemporary thespian, K Reeves, esq., so you do have to wonder what poor Alex Winter (William S. Preston to his friends) can have done to irritate the Hollywood Gods. Where Reeves can count Shakespeare comedies and the Matrix Trilogy on his CV, the best Alex Winter can claim seems to be Death Wish III.In any event, this is a great romp of a film, and it's much funnier that the highbrow critics (Amazon's included) realise. The sequel is even …
review by . December 25, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
After the success of BACK TO THE FUTURE, a slew of movies about time travel were produced and released. None have ever reached the level of excitement and humor yet without breaking continuity with time travel theory than that film did. Some of the films made were decent, some were terrible, and some were just incredibly funny. BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE was one the funniest time travel films and was a huge hit.Bill and Ted are two California high school losers who can't even play instruments …
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Nicholas Croston ()
Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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About this movie

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Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a 1989  American science fiction–comedy  buddy film in which two metalhead slackers travel through time in order to assemble a menagerie of historical figures for their high school history presentation.

The film was written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon and directed by Stephen Herek. It stars Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston, Esquire, Keanu Reeves as "Ted" Theodore Logan, and George Carlin as Rufus.
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