Synopsis: Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) and Alex Winter (The Lost Boys) deliver “spirited performances” (The Hollywood Reporter) in the original righteous comedy about the two ditzy dudes from San Dimas, California. Also starring George Carlin, this hysterically funny historical comedy is a “snappily directed” (Time), “bouncy good time” (The Boston Globe) and a party that goes on and on!
Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) have spent so much time forming their rock band, The Wyld Stallyns, that they’re flunking history. Whoa, duuuude! And when Ted’s dad threatens to send him away to military school, Bill and Ted realize it could mean the most heinous end of The Stallyns! Luckily, a guardian angel from the future, Rufus (Carlin), has come to them with a most bodacious solution: a time-traversing phone booth to take them into the past to learn about the world from some of history’s most influential personalities. Their journey through time turns out to be a blast…but will they learn enough to pass their class?
eyelights: Bill and Ted’s goofy but adorable demeanour. the film’s exuberant traipsing through time.
eyesores: the gaping plot holes. the film’s lack of logic.
Bill: “I’m Bill S. Preston, Esquire!”
Ted: “And I’m Ted “Theodore” Logan!”
Bill, Ted: “And we’re… WYLD STALLYNS!”
‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ is a teen time-travel comedy that was a surprise hit and launched the career of Keanu Reeves (and cemented his image to such a degree that he got stuck with it for years to come). It was so popular, in fact, that a sequel, a cartoon, a TV show and even a breakfast cereal were produced in its wake.
Look, it was the late ’80s: Hair metal was the most talked about musical genre at the time, and its spokespeople, the musicians themselves, often came off as naïve or dimwitted overgrown teenagers. It goes without saying that their fans and followers sounded equally simple and inarticulate, using all sorts of lame colloquialisms that infected pop culture.
Enter Bill and Ted, two morons who are hoping to become rock stars with their band Wyld Stallyns (no, this is not a reference to a certain soviet leader taking his top off for the camera). Forget the fact that they can barely play, that they are both guitarists and that there are no other band members; they are dreamers, dreaming the dream.
The problem is that they’re both about to fail their history class, and that would railroad their plans because Ted will be sent to military college by his father. Enter Rufus (played mildly convincingly by George Carlin), sent from the future to prevent this disaster: Bill and Ted are destined to change history with their music and humanity’s future utopia depends on them.
Through some serious flaws in logic, they reason that they should use Rufus’ time machine to go back in time and learn about the historical figures that they should be writing their final reports on. Of course, as luck would have it, it turns out that they start collecting historical figures one by one, starting with Napoleon himself!
‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ is meant to be dumb fun and it does an excellent job of that (being dumb and being fun). But one has to have a healthy and robust suspension of disbelief to watch the film: it not only refuses to make any sense, it actually flips the bird at all reason by knowingly putting goofy elements in the audience’s face, such as the phone booth-shaped time machine.
If one were to be nit-picky, one would be completely incapable of enjoying Bill and Ted’s delightfully daft adventure. So, for the sake of getting it out of the way, or as a form of forewarning, here are a few of the many questions that remain unanswered in this grand cinematic masterpiece:
How does it make sense that the present-time Bill and Ted need the future-time Bill and Ted to coax them to go on their journey? Logic would dictate that they would never have left at all, because there would never have been a future Bill and Ted to coax them in the first place.
Why does time continue its countdown for Bill and Ted as they move back and forth through time? Why couldn’t they just come back the same exact point in time that they left and carry on as though nothing had happened?
- How can their phone book have a number to dial for every conceivable time and place in history? Wouldn’t that be a really big book, one that’s bigger than even a phone booth?
- How could Bill and Ted not affect history just by showing up in the past with a phone booth? And what about when they mingle with the locals? Wouldn’t they change those people’s fate and, thus, the future?
- How could Bill and Ted displace historical figures without affecting history? Until they return those people to their proper place, they would have effectively been removed from history, thereby not achieving the many things they were meant to achieve!
- Wouldn’t the knowledge of these historical figures be forever changed via their time-travel journeys, having seen other eras, most radically different from they’d known – thus affecting their behaviour and actions? Upon returning to their proper time and place, wouldn’t they do things differently, affecting the course of history?
- How many historical figures can one fit in a phone booth, anyway? Think about it: it’s not nearly as big as a Volkswagen Beetle!
I first saw this film in the early ’90s, after seeing the sequel first (and which I didn’t much care for). It had amused me, but even then I knew how preposterous it was. I found it far more enjoyable than its follow-up, however, and the notion that it was dumb but fun stuck with me – and it echoes today, some two decades later.
Look, I’ll be the last to say that ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ is an excellent motion picture, but it has its charms. Sure, it’s mindless and goofy, but once in a while it’s nice to give your brain a break – and this movie doesn’t challenge you one iota. In fact, it revels in its cluelessness, showing off its protagonists’ limited mental ability like a badge of pride.
Still, for a good time, one could do worse than to call on Bill and Ted. Just don’t let them help you with your homework.
Mr. Ryan: “It seems to me the only thing you’ve learned is that Caesar is a “salad dressing dude.””
Date of viewing: May 21, 2013