Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

1 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

It’s the moment in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” where California dudes Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan meet their future selves that really let me know that I was in for a treat. About twenty minutes into the film, we’ve met these two lunkheads and were already introduced to an earlier plot point involving the future. Bill and Ted are sitting on the curb outside a Circle K, studying for their history class oral report (they ask passersby when the Mongols ruled China) when suddenly, a flying telephone booth lands in the parking lot. A strange man (from the future) steps out of it and approaches the awed dudes. They don’t know what to make of it, until another flying telephone booth lands next to them. In this one are Bill and Ted from some point in the near future. They approach their present selves and joyfully tell them that they’re going to have an excellent adventure through history, using the phone booth that is really a time machine from the future.

This is a great moment—my favorite line in this scene is from Future Bill who says, “Look dudes, we know how you feel. We didn’t believe it either when we were you and we-us said what we-us are saying right now.” It lets us know, as well as Bill and Ted, that what will follow is going to result in silly fun.

And that’s what “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” really is—silly fun. Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) are two friends who live in San Dimas, California, and apparently each share a brain…or whatever they have. These two may seem dumb (they speak in dude-surfer talk and say phrases like “Excellent!” or “Whoa!” or “Bogus!”), but they’re smart enough to know that if they fail their final history exam, they’ll fail the class and Ted’s uptight father will ship him off to military school. This is real “bogus,” because if that happens, Bill and Ted will be separated and never start their own band, Wyld Stallyns.

This is where Rufus (George Carlin), the man from the future, comes in—you see, Bill and Ted are supposed to start their band so that they become world famous and create a movement that will eventually lead to world peace. Rufus is sent to help them pass their report so that Ted won’t be sent away and ruin the space-time continuum. Confused? Don’t worry—it’ll make sense soon.

Wait a minute! That’s what Rufus said at the beginning of this movie! (Don’t worry—it DOES make sense soon. That time, it was me saying that.)

And so, Bill and Ted use their new time machine to go to many places in the past and take with them many historic figures, including Billy the Kid, Socrates, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln. They have to get them all together, have them experience San Dimas, and have them speak for their presentation about what they think.

That’s a fun premise and the movie keeps to the silliness of it, making it “silly fun.” It also has fun with uses of time travel—I love the scene in which Bill and Ted use it to create multiple diversions in order to free their new friends from jail. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are likable, but also convincing as doofuses. It was fun taking this adventure with these two—it’s not “excellent,” but it is in their vocabulary.

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