Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

If you’ve been living in a cave since the late 1980s, let me tell you a little bit about a little movie that gets much too little respect: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which hit theaters 19 years ago this month:

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves)—good-natured but underachieving high school seniors in San Dimas, California—will flunk out unless they get an A+ on their history report. Ted’s dad vows to send him to a military academy in Alaska if he fails.

This would be a most, most heinous turn of events for the future of mankind, as visitor-from-the-future Rufus (George Carlin) tells our heroes, because staying together after high school allows Bill and Ted’s nascent band (Wyld Stallyns) to get its legs and eventually bring world peace through its music.

Rufus gives the rapscallions a totally righteous time-traveling phone booth, enabling them to kidnap figures from history to use in their history report. Despite ample tomfoolery along the way—after all, the title does promise an excellent adventure—Bill and Ted secure their A+, guarantee the survival of Wyld Stallyns, and thus provide the foundation for humanity’s harmonious future.

Hey, it’s no crazier than Rocky beating the unbeatable Drago in Rocky IV—deal with it.

Bill and Ted earn the pedestal I place them on for several reasons:

Alex Winter. Most people know this movie as the first big-time vehicle for Keanu Reeves, but Alex Winter as “Bill S. Preston, Esquire” steals the show. It’s a toss up whether Winter shines more in this part or in his lesser but brilliant role as a teen vampire in The Lost Boys, but you can’t deny that the ‘90s would have been a better decade on the big screen if we’d have seen more of him.

Most Excellent Alex Winter Highlight: Bill saying to Billy the Kid: “Billy, you are dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease.”

Diverse musical references. Few movies both project a blissful future based on the music of an Iron Maiden- and Van Halen-inspired garage band … AND sport cameos by such decidedly non-metal musicians as Clarence Clemons (The E Street Band), Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Martha Davis (The Motels), and sprite-like Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Gos)—who, it must be noted, plays a fetching Joan of Arc.

Most Excellent Musical Highlight: Bill and Ted confusing the iron maiden, medieval torture device, with Iron Maiden, heavy metal band.

Historic figures trashing a mall. Some praise the movie for its subtle but clever presentation of the contradictions inherent in time travel. I don’t disagree. But even better are the shenanigans that the confused Billy the Kid, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Freud, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Socrates cause when Bill and Ted lose them in San Dimas Mall.

Most Excellent Mall-Wrecking, Time-Transported Celebrity Highlight: Genghis Khan wreaking Mongol-rific havoc on a sporting goods store.

It’s about time for three-quel: Ever since one fun but strained sequel (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991), rumors have swirled about a third installment in the series. And yet it never comes.

Bogus. Totally, totally bogus.


At February 06, 2008 10:19 AM, Blogger bob_vinyl replied to my musings ...

A friend and I used to joke about how the movie's deep, important message was that the world could only be saved by non-conformists. A lot of silly rock n roll kinda movies don't hold up years later, but I still enjoy Bill & Ted whereas I'd rather have an icepick stuck in my back than have to watch Wayne and Garth.

At February 06, 2008 10:30 AM, Anonymous kim replied to my musings ...

San Dimas high school football rules!

We totally conned our junior high Latin teacher into showing this in class - we told him it had related historical value. Man was he pissed about Socrates.

At February 06, 2008 10:31 AM, OpenID whatigotsofar replied to my musings ...

Best guitar face ever: George Carlin.

At February 06, 2008 10:53 AM, Blogger jenn replied to my musings ...

I now feel the need to watch this again.

At February 06, 2008 11:07 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Bob: It was nice to see a movie about "non-conformists" (good term!) that doesn't rely on them taking drugs every five minutes to get cheap laughs.

Kim: That's a great line from the movie ... which wasn't in the original script! Apparently, he was just going to shout that stagefright sucks. I like the final movie line better, that's for sure.

WIGSF: So true, especially given that he wasn't the one actually playing.

Jenn: Good to see you here again. I'm glad I could seduce you back to Bill and Ted.

-- david

At February 06, 2008 11:09 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

Dude, the antibiotics are obviously frying my brain cells, at first I thought you were talking about "Weekend at Bernie's." ;-)

You're such a GUY!

At February 06, 2008 11:23 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Another highlight to the film was that 80s teen film hottie, Diane Franklin (better known as the French foreign exchange student in Better Off Dead and for her appearance in the oft-forgotten The Last American Virgin) was one of the 2 princesses.

Now what ever happened to her?

At February 06, 2008 12:47 PM, Blogger Barbara replied to my musings ...

Would you hate me if I said I never saw this film? But I will....just for you.

At February 06, 2008 3:25 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: Oh no. It's blasphemy to confuse that crap with this art. (And, yes--I am indeed a guy.)

Perplexio: They didn't give the princesses enough skin time ... oops, I mean screen time. But maybe that's a good thing--they had bigger roles in the sequel, and they weren't so good.

Barbara: Please don't lie to me. Just take it as a good reason to check it out. Then you can either thank me or call me a moron for enjoying this film!

-- david

At February 07, 2008 2:59 AM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I truly never saw this film, or it's sequel. Come to think of it, I haven't seen most 80's mainstay movies: Fast Times At Ridgemont, 16 Candles, Pretty In Pink, The Outsiders, etc. But I have seen every Fellini movie ever made. (the clown, he cries...) Maybe it would make up for it if I admitted to seeing the Tubes live, and the Bangles, and INXS during the 80's...

At February 07, 2008 2:22 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Actually Diane Franklin wasn't in the sequel, they replaced her with a different actress. :-(

Her best role was as Monique in Better Off Dead with a really bad fake French accent trying to speak English. There were some near nasal milk eruptions that resulted from my laughter in that movie.

At February 07, 2008 2:44 PM, Blogger Pixie replied to my musings ...

For some strange reason i have yet to get around to seeing this movie- I think I spent most of the 80's in a bubble or something...

At February 08, 2008 1:38 AM, Blogger Bruce replied to my musings ...

Meh; it was watchable, but it's not something I'd highly recommend(unless you actually think Keanu Reaves is a good actor).
And Mike- "The Outsiders" is a must see; it's a great movie. And you should watch "Fast Times.." if for no other reason than to see a fresh young actress named Phoebe Cates. BTW, I saw her last week on The Big Idea, with Donnie Deutsch, and she still has it going on.

Oh and David, I'm assuming that, living where you do, you know who Don and Mike are. I don't know if you've heard(or care, actually, lol), but Don is leaving the show at the end of May. Mike will take over as the solo host, with backup from the other guys that are there now. It's been a long time coming, I think, since his wife died in 2005.

At February 08, 2008 9:13 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Mike, Pixie: There's still time!

Perplexio: Whoever played the princesses, I think the characters were weak in the sequel. I did enjoy Better Off Dead.

Bruce: I haven't listened to D&M in a couple of years. Is Don giving any particular reason for this timing?

-- david

At February 08, 2008 9:24 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

George Carlin is amazing. He's got to be one of my favorites.

At February 08, 2008 11:03 AM, Blogger Bruce replied to my musings ...

He says he's tried to quit three times since Freda died, but couldn't, for whatever reason(s). He said it's different this time; that he's ready to move on, and spend more time with his girlfriend, Bart, and his grandchildren. His current contract is up in September anyway, but he worked out a deal to leave early.

At February 08, 2008 6:44 PM, Blogger Tai replied to my musings ...

Dude! Most non-bogus review!

At February 09, 2008 6:16 PM, Blogger BeckEye replied to my musings ...

While I like this post, I disagree with the idea that this movie is underappreciated. I don't know anyone who grew up during this time that doesn't love this movie. And the fact that most people still think of Keanu Reeves as "Ted," regardless of how many movies he's been in speaks volumes...about the movie's appeal and Keanu's limited acting skills!

I tried to keep up a recurring topic on my blog called "Other Guy of the Month," which has since died due to my inability to stick to my own plans. Anyway, Alex Winter was the inaugural "other guy."

As much as I loved Bill and Ted, I didn't like the sequel at all. I hope there isn't a third installment. The original was perfect and I don't think it should've been meddled with.

At February 10, 2008 2:07 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

PQ: He's one in a million.

Bruce: Good for him. Self-awareness is not common enough; I hope he finds what he's looking for. Although he often annoyed me, I'll miss his no-BS attitude.

Tai: Triumphant comment!

Beckeye: It's underappreciated because it is not yet the basis of civilization in the real world ... AND because most people focus on Keanu, as I mentioned, instead of the better aspects of the movie. I must have missed your Alex tribute ... sorry about that. Maybe I'll find your post and put in a hot link to it in this post!

-- david

At February 11, 2008 10:01 AM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

I've never seen this movie and, before you ask, I have not been living in a cave all these years.

At February 15, 2008 1:50 PM, Blogger TheBullRDR replied to my musings ...

I agree it was a good film. It was the role Keanu was made for. It IS the only thing he can do though. I doubt they'll be lining up to attend the Keanu Reeves School of Shakesperian Acting. The best part about his role in The Matrix movies was they didn't give him many lines. Alex, on the other had had talent. I think The Lost Boys was a better show, though.

At February 19, 2008 6:46 AM, Blogger TOPolk replied to my musings ...

No love for a PG George Carlin? Bummer.

As a fan of everything travel and 80s part of me wants a Bill & Ted's Awesome Voyage, but then I remember what happened in Back to the Future III. Or for that matter Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. Like my beloved Ghostbusters, some franchises are better left alone.

I'd be all for a revival of the animated series though.

At February 19, 2008 11:29 AM, Anonymous Scott replied to my musings ...

That musical bit during the mall siege (Do You Want to Play) was most awesome. I used to play that at top volume in my dorm if I needed an endorphin rush.

At February 20, 2008 7:02 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Cube: I'd never accuse you of living in a cave. Again.

Bull Dr.: I agree with you 100%.

Topolk: Some franchises, indeed, are better left alone. Stallone never understood that.

Scott: Totally true. The only part of it that I didn't like was Beethoven playing cheesy synth in the music store.


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