When I revisted this film recently, I was struck by one thing – there is no way it could be green lit by any major studio in this day and age. If you read my summary below, and realize that the only “star” is a comedian who has about five minutes of screen time, and a concept so dumb it just can’t possibly work. It is not a sure bet at all. Hell, it wasn’t a sure bet in 1988 either, but it got made and we now have some the best catchphrases of the 1980s.
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are in a most heinous situation. They are about to fail their high school history class, and if that happens they fail school! Ted will be shipped off to military school and Bill will most likely end up hanging out with Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Before that can happen a telephone booth (remember those) from the future arrives carrying George Carlin. No, it really does.
Carlin plays Rufus a man who has seen the most excellent future that Bill and Ted create – but only if they stay together to form their band Wyld Stallyns. To ensure they are kept together, they must pass the history class. To do that Rufus gives them the telephone booth/time machine to travel into the past. Bill And Ted go along with this and are soon meeting Napoleon, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc! Of course shenanigans ensue and you end up with historical figures running around the San Dimas mall, Napoleon on a waterslide and Abraham Lincoln telling everyone to “Be excellent to each other.” Prepare yourself for a real blast from the past (and the 1980s) with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
- Embraces the silliness of the concept and keeps things fun
- Winter and Reeves are a great comic duo
- Snappy writing leads to some very quotable lines
- Looking for a serious examination of time travel – uh, go watch Primer instead
- Looking for historical accuracy – uh, go watch the History chann… wait that won’t work either
- This movie is as dumb as its protagonists
But you could argue that fact. Much like Bill and Ted themselves, the movie is actually a bit smarter than it lets on. Some of the humor is silly, but there are also some solid satirical jabs at 80s society. But the thing that works is the spirit of fun and comedic chemistry of the leads. These guys are likable goofballs who get a lucky break but actually grow up a little because of it. For me, this is one of the classic comedies (and adventures) of the 1980s. Well worth seeing or revisiting.
Scores (out of 5)
Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.