Fox // 1987 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 18th, 2012
History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't spell.
Meet Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter, The Lost Boys) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves, Point Blank), two laid back San Dimas, California slackers who dream of the day their band Wyld Stallyons hits the top of the charts. However, their dream is in jeopardy when a high school history teacher informs them they are in dire straits of flunking, which would force Ted's militant father (Hal Landon Jr, The Artist) to ship Ted off to boarding school and split the duo up.
What the twosome doesn't know is that in the future they become huge rock stars and their music becomes the driving force that brings about world peace (natch). To make sure this happens, an era hopping Rufus (George Carlin, Dogma) is sent into the past with a phone booth time machine to help the boys gather the info they need to pass their history class. Thus our heroic trio traverse the time stream to meet -- and collect -- everyone from Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon Bonaparte to Joan of Arc, meet some righteous princess babes, and ensure the future turns out "most excellent"!
There is so much '80s seeping out of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure that it could easily go into the Smithsonian as the sole example of that decade. The fashions, the music, the bizarre storyline...this is a movie that could have only come from the decade of decadence (until Hollywood ponies up for the inevitable remake).
I unabashedly love Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. It's a movie that is gleefully stupid with an undercurrent of intelligence that many young viewers may not catch. The writers, Ed Solomon (Men in Black) and Chris Matheson (Mom and Dad Save the World), inject the film with just the right amount of smarts and silliness so that it doesn't come off as too idiotic (see: Dude, Where's My Car?), even if the main characters are a couple of utter boneheads. Director Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland's Opus) keeps things at such a lively pace, rarely is there a slow moment with Bill and Ted. The film's palate is colorful and bright which helps keep it a light, breezy watch.
Praise must go to Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters for making Bill and Ted heroes we like, even though they come off as semi-high California surfers (poor Keanu would be stuck with that persona throughout his career). The two make Bill and Ted likable personalities, the kind of guys you want to party with. They're are never mean spirited and -- most shockingly -- lack much of the cynicism that seeps into most teen characters on screen today.
To say Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has an eclectic supporting cast would be an understatement. Stand up comedian turned actor George Carlin plays Rufus like he's their surrogate father. Carlin can sometimes come off as rough around the edges, but given the right role, he always had a soft side which often on display here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, famous musicians like the Go-Go's Jane Wiedlan and Bruce Springsteen sideman Clarence Clemmons pop up in amusing cameos. Even '70s blaxpolitation actor Bernie Casey (Cornbread Earl and Me) gets into the act as Bill and Ted's hard-nosed history teacher. The various actors portraying history's most famous faces -- Genghis Kahn, Billy the Kid, Sigmund Freud -- are all well cast and amusing (especially when let loose within the San Dimas Mall).
This is an endlessly quotable movie. Though hardly perfect -- a subplot involving the duo wooing medieval princesses could have easily been trimmed -- the film retains a youthful and infectious energy that even those who didn't grow up in the '80s may enjoy.
I have to take a moment and plug the sequel Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, which arrived two years later. It is hands down one of the best sequels ever to grace the silver screen. Even more weird and odd than Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the sequel features Bill and Ted's run in with God, the grim reaper, a large butted alien, an evil Easter Bunny, robot Bill and Ted clones, and a monstrous version of Bill's grandmother. Why Fox didn't release Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (Blu-ray) at the same time is beyond me.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, MGM/Fox has given the film a fair amount of love, as the transfer looks far better than expected. Although there is some light film grain, the image looks very clean with brightly lit colors and solid black levels. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is. There are a lot of fun directional effects to be found here, and the track features some great '80s tunes. Also included is an original Dolby 1.0 Mono mix in Spanish, as well as Spanish, French, and English SDH subtitles.
Bonus features are all ports from the previous DVD releases, including a conversation with writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, a featurette on air guitar ("Air Guitar Tutorial with Bjorn Turoque & The Rockness Monsters"), a single episode from the spinoff 1990s animated TV series, some promotional radio spots, and a theatrical trailer.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure will not go down as a movie that changed the face of cinema, but who cares? This is a lot of fun and a great throwback for those who lived through the '80s. Reeves and Winters created iconic, indelible characters and the movie is nothing but one big goofy smile from start to finish.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* TV Episode
* Radio Spots