Bill and Ted are two well meaning, air headed teens who dwell in San Dimas, California and dream of hitting it big with their band Wyld Stallyns. The two have many obstacles standing in their way – two of them being Ted’s disapproving cop dad and the fact that neither of them can competently play an instrument to save their lives – but the worst of all is that if they fail their upcoming history project, Ted will be sent to an Alaskan military school, therefore breaking up the band…
Hugely unusual salvation is at hand in the unflappable form of Rufus (played by a supremely chilled George Carlin), a guide from 2688 who arrives in a time travelling phone booth with a most surprising message – thanks to the music these two dummies eventually manage to produce, the world will achieve a state of utopia and peace, but if they flunked history, they’ll be separated and Wyld Stallyns will never inspire the world to do great things. Reacting to this enormous pressure the same way they react to everything else (“Woah!”), the unfailingly positive duo embark on an excellent adventure that sees them recklessly plucking famous figures from the time stream in order to nail their school presentation (don’t worry, Back To The Future rules don’t seem to apply here…) before time runs out. Ricocheting various times from the wild west, to ancient Greece to medieval England like a racquetball that can traverse time and space, can our heroes fall ass backwards into preserving Earth’s glorious future while simultaneously managing to keep a notoriously fussy Napoleon entertained? As Ted himself exclaims at one point: strange things are afoot at the Circle K…
Often and erroneously labelled as a stoner comedy (if Bill & Ted are high on anything, it’s life… and possibly the fumes from their overloaded musical equipment), Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a genuinely sweet snapshot of 80’s dude culture that managed to kick start a long line of “bro-dacious” buddy comedies that includes both the good (Encino Man) and the bad (everything else starred Pauly Shore in the 90’s), but still manages to hold it’s own after all these years. The key to this is a merciless two-pronged assault by a surprisingly smart script and the boundless enthusiasm that radiates off it’s two leads like a crack in a nuclear reactor.
Writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (who scripted all three Bill And Ted ventures) infuse proceedings with just enough ludicrous happenings to keep things nicely cartoonish but also know when to pull back to make things just believable enough to give things wait. For example if a character is pulled from another time is someone such as Beethoven or Joan If Arc, they don’t magically know how to speak English and only converse in their own language – it’s a small point, but it’s details like this that make the sillier parts of the film works so well.
Crammed with literally tons of daffy character moments where some of the most famous people who ever forged the oath of history are adorably transfixed by Californian life in 1989, Bill And Ted scores some great gags such as the boys enticing Genghis Kahn into their time machine with a twinkie, Joan Of Arc having a real weakness for aerobics, Sigmund Freud trying to pick up dates while holding a very phallic corndog on a stick and – best of all – a running gag concerning Ted’s younger brother, Deacon, babysitting a notoriously uppity Napoleon who cheats at bowling and cuts the line at the local water park because he adores the water slides.
Of course, none of this would even remotely hold together if it wasn’t for the breathless antics of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves who inhabit their characters so completely you can almost understand the “cute but dumb” label that journalists slapped on Reeves for years after. Simply put, they are twin pylons that pump out so much youthful energy that if you could harness it, you could most likely power an entire Metallica world tour while still having enough juice left over to charge the battery of the tour bus and even here the film nicely scatters some intelligent one liners here and there as Bill’s feelings to his painfully young new stepmom, Missy (a running joke throughout the entire franchice) are exposed when, thanks to Freud, he admits that he has an “edible” complex (read: Oedipus).
It’s all damn good stuff and director Stephen Herek (a man who gave us the Glen Close version of 101 Dalmatians and fucking Critters of all things) keeps things ticking alone nicely, but isn’t perfect. The early sections that deal with hooking up with Billy The Kid in the Wild West and a jaunt through Medieval England admittedly feel like the movie is still trying to find the right tone as it goes and doesn’t truly hit its stride until Bill And Ted start collecting historical figures wholesale; and oddly some of the endless rock songs that play over proceedings are oddly kind of forgettable, which is weird when you consider that literally all our heroes want to do is start a most excellent rock band. Even the slightly superior (in my humble opinion) sequel Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey managed to score God Gave Rock And Roll To You by Kiss…
With that being said, anyone who has seen the vastly irritating Dude, Where’s My Car knows that pulling off a madcap sci-fi comedy that wraps itself in adorable stupidity isn’t always easy to pull off and any such attempt is literally begging to inadvertently be as annoying as piss – but that’s exactly why Bill & Ted have always persevered: the two, slang-spitting plebs have never been anything less that legitimately loveable and their primary adventure lives up to the title of being most, most excellent.
Guaranteed to put you in a good mood, dude.