IN A NUTSHELL
With Nostradamus-like accuracy, screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Soloman predicted that oblivious levels of idiocy will be celebrated as positive traits by our future society. As such, a time-guardian is dispatched from the year 2688 to 1988 to ensure that two random chuckle-heads finish their history presentation (!) so that they can become the custodians of humanity's evolution. Dear God, please help us all.
IN THE WHEELHOUSE
People who feel more comfortable seeing their jokes coming from a mile away or folks who have been waiting to see Keanu Reeves in the role he was born to play might dig this one.
- Before Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, before Beavis and Butthead and before Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne there was Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves attack these nominal roles with tremendous aplomb and without a shred of self-consciousness. They're so successful in this endeavor that they take a pretty pedestrian color-by-numbers script and make it fun to watch. Even though Bill and Ted are both impressively stupid, they're also kinda sweet and have their hearts in the right place, which explains why we like 'em.
- George Carlin is criminally under-used but every time he's on-screen things get exponentially better. Given his aloof attitude, unconventional mode of dress and call-box related method of transportation a case can be made that Rufus is, in fact, the very first American Dr. Who.
- I love that Bill and Ted call their band "Wyld Stallyns". Which begs the question, were they embracing that hoary 80's trope of deliberately miss-spelling your band name just to be all "wild" and "crazy" or do these guys actually not know how to spell "wild" and "stallions". Maybe we'll get the answer to this burning question in Part III.
- Terry Camilleri is welcome relief as a petty, spiteful, vindictive and gleefully childish Napoleon Bonaparte. His rampage at the water-slide is downright hilarious.
- The dynamic between Bill and Missy *slash* Mom (Amy Stock-Poynton) is worth a few yocks.
- The scene which inspires the line: "Yeah! I fell out of my suit when I hit the floor!" is so beautifully dada-esque I really wish there was more strange shit like this in the movie. Mike Myers probably picked up on this, which is one reason why Wayne's World is a better movie.
- Even though the whole time-travel plot here isn't exactly Twelve Monkeys, there are a few cool examples of that old screenwriting adage: "If a gun appears on the mantlepiece in Act I it needs to be fired in Act III". Bill and Ted's early encounter with themselves comes and goes later on in the film without thoughts of paradox. Missing keys that are mentioned early on actually have an impact on the story. And when our two So Cal bros finally figure out the creative applications of time travel in the last reel, we see hints of Back To The Future-style hi-jinx. Pity the movie is practically over by the time this happens.
- So-CRATES. Absolutely no-one on the planet actually pronounces the famous Greek philosopher's name properly anymore: proof positive of the film's lasting cultural impact.
- Honestly it's worth sitting through the film just to see omnipresent 80's action-movie bad-guy Al Leong lose his shit on a sporting goods store mannequin with an aluminum baseball bat. Bonus "star", right thur.
- The first one-third of the film is nothing but a boring checklist of "Hey, let's go to this vaguely historic-looking film set and abduct a cosplaying character actor". These early scenes are further hampered by Stephen Herek's flat direction which makes the Wild West and ancient Greece scenes look like out-takes from a T.V. movie. Mercifully the aforementioned Terry Camilleri shows up not long after and things immediately start to liven up.
- The production design and special effects are, in Bill and Ted parlance, pretty heinous. The "time circuit" looks like a cheesy first-gen CGI demo reel and the Utopian future sets and costumes look like they were designed by Ed Wood and Georgio Armani.
- In the space of a few short hours Ted's asshole cop dad goes from "if you don't pass History there's gonna be hell to pay" to "pack yer shit, yer goin' to military college!". Wow, that escalated quickly.
- Now I know that Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure isn't supposed to be an art film, but I think it could have been a lot funnier to drop these two yahoos smack dab into the middle of darkest and strangest moments of human history. I'd love to see these idiots deal with the Black Death or the Crusades...
- Although the Sigmund Freud / food court / corn-dog pick-up scene is vaguely funny, it's also pretty low-ball. If they'd just taken the time to flesh out these historical figures a little bit we could have had some subversive learning and social commentary along with all the sitcom-style humor. Instead, what we're left with is equivalent to a bunch of background performers dressed up in low-rent Halloween costumes.
- If I was Bill and Ted's History teacher, I still would have flunked them. At face value all they did was hire a bunch of historic recreation actors and throw them up onstage with an admittedly bitchin' light and sound show. Big fat hairy deal. I wanna see some applied knowledge, motherfuckers!
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to all for these inane "idiot protagonist" movies that we've suffered through over the years credit or blame must fall squarely on the shoulders of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Watching this just goes to show that a movie isn't necessarily good just because it's old. Above and beyond the nostalgia factor, the biggest saving grace for the film is Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. They really deserve the lion's share of credit for making this mediocre script work in any capacity.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a vaguely-amusing, non-threatening hour and a half long diversion. And now that I've seen it I have absolutely no desire to be lured back into the time machine for a re-watch.