MGM // 1989 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 19th, 2001
History is about to be rewritten by two guys who can't even spell.
Before Wayne and Garth...before Spade and Farley...there was Bill and Ted. Back in 1989, a little movie was released that went on to earn big bucks at the box office: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Starring a very young Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) and Alex Winter (The Lost Boys), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a delicate balance of stupid teenager comedy and quick, witty writing. Also starring angry comedian George Carlin, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure rides the circuits of time into your DVD player courtesy of MGM Home Entertainment.
Bogus! Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Winters) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Reeves) are in dire straights of flunking their history class in San Dimas, California! If this happens, Ted will be shipped off to Oates Military Academy in Alaska and their rock band "Wyld Stallyns" will be kaput for good! Their only hope lies in a history report that they must pass to pass their class.
Things look grim for our boys until the arrival of Rufus (Carlin), a time traveler from the future. Rufus has a solution to Bill and Ted's problems: take a time-hopping phone booth into the past to learn about history firsthand! Leaping from era to era, Bill and Ted meet up with some of our past's most famous faces, including Billy the Kid, the philosopher Socrates, President Abraham Lincoln, and more. Collecting these dudes from yesteryear is the easy part...the hard part is going to be passing their history report!
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is an excellent movie. The proof lies in the way the story treads a fine line between goofy comedy and smartly written dialogue. Much like its cousin Wayne's World, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure takes some typically "stoopid" California slackers and drops them into a very smart movie. I hadn't seen Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure for a few years and was surprised at how hard I laughed at the whole thing. With each consecutive leap into time, I found at least one hearty belly laugh every five minutes. What cold-hearted cynic about you wouldn't laugh at watching Genghis Khan trying on sporting equipment at a mall sports center?
Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon (who also penned the even funnier sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey) know where to stick the laughs in a movie like this. The funniest character in the film comes in the form of the diminutive Napoleon (played with a deadpan mockery by Terry Gamilleri). A genius leader of his time, in 1989 Napoleon learns the value of such activities as eating a mammoth bowl of ice cream at the Ziggy Piggy restaurant, going bowling, and flying down a waterslide at a local water park. In fact, all the actors portraying the historical figures do so with such accuracy that it makes the film all the funnier. I laughed for quite a while after watching Billy the Kid and Socrates (complete with a BC toga) get turned down by two '80s teenage girls after being interrupted by Sigmund Freud ("You are such a geek," one girl giggles to a befuddled Freud).
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure bounces around with a gleeful sense of fun, a movie that is free of any of the excessive nudity, sex, or violence prevalent in most of today's teen movies. Bill and Ted are genuinely likable characters thanks to very funny performances by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters. Sure, these guys are boneheads, but the script makes them come off as a bit more intelligent than one might suspect. You can tell that the only thing these two dudes want out of life is to have fun and rock and roll! After Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure Keanu Reeves would forever be associated with this type of character...and his dippy catchphrase "whoa." George Carlin has a lot of fun with his character Rufus, and even Bruce Springsteen's sax playing sidekick Clarence "Big Man" Clemons shows up for a futuristic guest spot.
If you haven't had the chance to see Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, by all means catch this movie. For those thinking it's going to be brain dead comedy in the vein of National Lampoon's Senior Trip or Freddy Got Fingered you're wrong -- this is a smart script, a funny cast, and a bodacious movie! Party on, dudes!
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, this is not the most impressive transfer ever done by MGM. The image is marred by excessive grain and dirt throughout the film. Colors are usually bright and bold with only the slightest amount of bleeding present. Black levels are solid and digital artifacting was non-present. This is a passable if very average transfer.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video portions of this disc I wasn't exactly impressed with this sound mix. While directional sounds were utilized in a few spots, overall this track sounded on the low end of the 5.1 spectrum. Dialogue, effects and David Newman's bouncy music score were all clear of any distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are French, Spanish and English subtitles.
No way! The only extra feature included on this disc is an original theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen! Not cool, man!
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a most gnarly film! Where else can you catch all the great leaders and historical figures from history sharing a malt at a shopping mall in California? I'm guessing your answer is "nowhere!" I highly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it yet, and to everyone else who has; Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is worth a second and third viewing. Make sure to check out the sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, which is even more irreverent and funny! This disc isn't perfect, but for the price I think it's a decent buy.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is acquitted on all charges! Awesome!
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Theatrical Trailer