Friday, June 19, 2015

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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.

Good Points:
  • 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
Bad Points:
  • 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)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 5
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Carlin said he might have been the only white guy playing a Rufus in history. I've never seen this film either. I'm not sure why exactly, perhaps its wild premise, but more has to do with the type guys Reeves and Winters are playing, and I'm not even what type that is? They seem like dorks or Californian valley guys or some sort of amalgam of a fantasized youth. I have friends that loved the film however, and as you said, is very 80's.

    It is a wild premise, but I don't know whether it could be made today or not--granted they'd have to tweak the type teenagers to more modern roles. But then they made Hot Tub Time Machine, so who knows?

    1. Ok, I had forgotten (blocked out more likely) "Hot Tub Time Machine", so it is entirely possible that this film could be made these days.

      Yeah, I think they are playing "surfer dudes" who didn't surf. Like you said, California Valley Guys. I'm pretty certain that Spicoli from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was the genesis for that type of character in movies. Bill and Ted remind me of him for sure.

  2. A triumphant video, dude. Maybe a director could go back in time to get the remake green-lit, or is that totally bogus?

    1. I think a remake would be bogus! But then again, that won't stop them from trying it. Party on, DUDE!

  3. I love these films cause I grew up with them, but seeing them as an adult I can definitely say that these characters are like children, even after high school they act like retarded kids, in both films! But they are extremely lovable goofballs. I like the sequel more because it's more action packed and funnier, and it has more effects. Winter is always talking about a third...but I seriously doubt it will get made...they've waited too long to make it. We wouldn't want another Dumb and Dumber To in our hands!

    1. I haven't seen the second one in years, but I remember not caring for it much the first time I saw it. But then really finding it hilarious the second time I watched it. I actually know a few folks who like the second film more. And yeah, they don't need to make another one. And they don't need to remake it. It is from the 80s and should stay that way.

  4. This is a fun movie that still holds up, IMO. It really is a snapshot of its time.

    1. I agree. Not just the clothes, lingo and music, but also the way its portrayal of society really just feels 1980s.