Thursday, January 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

DISCLAIMER: The text of this review was already completed before the insertion of images. In doing so, I discovered that my personal DVD copy of the movie was screwed up and my laptop wouldn't play it. As a result, I had to make do with third-party stills (and one snapshot via my phone) . Please excuse the varying quality.

Waiting to upload stuff for the Mario retrospective according to the schedule gets a little boring. As a result, I thought I'd pass the time by doing some more reviews for this blog. For the next few entries, I'm taking a look at one of the franchises that defined the 80's/90's Transitional Period: Bill and Ted.

Back in my ICBINAVGN days, you probably noticed that I used a few clips from the movies (Bill's "WHAT!?" and Ted's "Whoa..."). Suffice it to say, I like those movies and I want to give my own take on the most triumphant outings of the Wyld Stallyns. We start with the first movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. 

But before we begin, a brief bit of background.


The idea of Bill and Ted started out back in 1983 when Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were in an improv workshop and came up with a trio who clearly couldn't grasp current events; the characters were called Bill, Ted, and Bob. The Bob character was quickly phased out and the trio became a duo.

The concept was also retooled: it became about them going back to historical events they didn't understand and inadvertently causing numerous historical disasters (for instance, sinking the Titanic), but such ideas were deemed too dark and were abandoned. The duo got a particular speech pattern as well: it wasn't Valley speak or Surfer lingo, according to Solomon and Matheson, but something independent of those dialects that could easily be mistaken for either. The ideas for Ted's pot-smoking big brother was also given the ax.

The first draft was ready in 1984, but it would take five years before the concept would be fine-tuned enough for the public. We will cover a little more trivia like this as we press on, but we need to get on to the main course.


TRIVIA: Originally, Bill and Ted's names were "Smith" and "Williams",respectively.
Bill S. Preston, Esq., (Alex Winters; left) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves; right) are a pair of metalheads collectively known as the Wyld Stallyns. They want to be a great band, only one problem: they suck. Hard. Their obsession with getting their band off the ground comes at the expense of their grades.

TRIVIA: Rufus was first envisioned as a 28-year-old High School student.
Rufus (George Carlin) is a man from the year 2688. He is sent seven centuries back in time to help give the Wyld Stallyns an edge with their history assignment.

Missy (I mean "Mom") Preston (Amy Stock-Poynton). Despite being only three years older than the two, she is Bill's stepmother. She's pretty much the hottest woman on the planet. Everyone oogles her: Bill, her husband, former teachers, Napoleon, the list goes on!

Captain Logan (Hal Langdon) is Ted's father and member of the San Dimas Police Department. He is very disappointed in Ted, to the point that he is threatening to ship him off to military school.

Deacon Logan (Frazier Bain) is Ted's younger brother. He is given the task of babysitting Napoleon while the Wyld Stallyns do their "research".


We are introduced to Rufus in the 27th Century. In the future, you see, virtual paradise was achieved but it was nearly averted by an incident involving two teenage boys from San Dimas, California: Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan. Rufus' job is to make sure they stay on track. Somehow, the duo forms the basis of his world.
"I spoke to Col. Oats this morning. He's anxious to meet you, Ted."

Bill and Ted have spent so much time playing rock stars that their grades are suffering (they think that Caesar was "a salad dressing dude" and that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife). They have but one assignment left: the final oral report asking how certain historical figures would view 1988 San Dimas; if they don't get an A+, they flunk. It doesn't help that Ted's father is planning to send his son to Oats Military Academy in Alaska because of this, killing Wyld Stallyns in its cradle.

TRIVIA: Did you know that time travel in the film was supposed to be done via van?
While working on the early drafts of the movie, Back to the Future hit theaters. To
avoid legal problems, the time machine became a phone booth.

After getting kicked out of Bill's house by Mr. Preston (who wants to get it on with Missy), the two study at a Circle K, they meet Rufus, who shows up in a phone booth. He tells the duo that he wants to help them with the history report, but they're clueless as to how.

"If you're really us... what number are we thinking of?"
"69, dudes!"

Then another phone booth appears... with another pair of Stallyns, who tell the originals what they're going to do. These are the Bill and Ted of the near future, come to convince the present ones that everything they're seeing is real. As they leave, they bring up princesses and... well... I won't spoil the joke.

Rufus takes Bill and Ted to Napoleon Bonaparte's (Terry Carmilleri) 1805 invasion of Austria to show what the phone booth could do.

Rufus departs, leaving behind the phone booth... and Napoleon! A mishap in his camp sent "the short, dead dude" (which is the only thing Bill could identify him as) to 1988 with the boys. Because of this, they hatch a plan: they have one historical person with them, they can get more to speak at the report that's due.

Bill and Ted leave Napoleon in the care of Ted's little brother Deacon; after a run-in with Ted's father (a chewing-out cut short by a prank call from Bill) the duo go to the Old West and save the life of Billy the Kid (Dan Shor).

"Dust. Wind. Dude!"

Next, it's off to ancient Greece. They snag Socrates* (Tony Steedman) after "philosophizing" with him. Wanna know where Socrates came up with "Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives"? The lyrics to "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas.

"How's it going, Royal Ugly Dudes?"

The next stop is at a castle in medieval England. Remember what Future!Ted said about princesses? They're here, and the dudes fall for them like a ton of bricks. Unfortunately, their kingly father says "no dice" and tries to execute the duo. Billy and Socrates manage to save the two when all hope seems lost and they escape.

The group winds up in the 27th century, where everyone seems to worship the ground they walk on. They leave shortly after getting there ("We'd take you with us, but it's a History report, not a Future report.").

The duo go up and down the time stream, collecting numerous figures: Sigmund Freud** (Rod Loomis), Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin), Ludwig von Beethoven*** (Clifford David), and Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) among them. Eventually, the booth's antenna breaks and they get stranded in the prehistoric San Dimas area. Through the magic of bubble gum they get it running again.

They wind up back in 1988, only it's still the past. Remember the earlier scene where the Stallyns meet their future counterparts? The same scene occurs... only now, Present!Bill and Ted have assumed the roles (and lines) of Future!Bill and Ted. It turns out they came to the wrong time because... well, explaining it would ruin the joke.

"This is Dave Beeth-huvvin, Maxine of Arc, Herman the Kid, Bob Genghis
Kahn, So-crates Johnson, Dennis Frood, and... Abraham Lincoln."

They return to their correct time, and Missy hardly bats an eye when a phone booth randomly falls on her garden hose and the Stallyns come out with a parade historical dudes.

After doing some chores, Bill and Ted leave the group in the Food Court of the San Dimas Mall while they run off to fetch Napoleon. Unfortunately for the Stallyns, Deacon did not have a good time with Napoleon and ditched him at the bowling alley the night before! Bill and Ted find the Little Corporal, who now has an undying love of water parks!

While all that's going on, the other historical dudes wreak havoc at the mall as they discover the modern stuff they love. Beethoven plays the keyboards at a music store (creating a crowd); Genghis Khan wrecks a sporting goods store; Lincoln is accused of stealing a stove pipe hat and beard (his own) from a portrait studio; Socrates, Billy the Kid, and Freud get chased for reasons that aren't exactly clear; Joan of Arc takes over an aerobics class. As you'd expect, they go to the pokey because of this chaos they've caused.

Now, the Stallyns' objective is to bust the historical dudes out of jail. The problem: they don't have any time and Ted lost his father's cell keys. Fortunately, they have the phone booth! Once they do their report (and likely fail), they use it to find the keys and put it behind the sign of the station... among other useful things! The whole scene makes me wonder about how much trial-and-error the duo went through before pulling it off successfully.

They free the historical dudes (and several criminals, unavoidably) and just barely escape the police station (thanks to one booby-trap).


The Stallyns get to the school auditorium in the nick of time so they can do their report. They talk briefly about what modern activities and stuff the historical dudes did and their relation to history. Also, by this time, they get Socrates and Freud's names right. It all ends with Lincoln giving a variation of the Gettysburg Address! The school's reaction to the report is akin to a concert -- lighters and everything!

A lot more epic than the alternate ending where the report happens in Bill and Ted's classroom!

Yeah, not quite as awesome, huh?

The Stallyns got A+'s, but feel like it's time get a little more serious in terms of improving the band. Then Rufus shows up... with the princesses! The best way the boys can thank him is with their autographs. Rufus' mission was to make sure Bill and Ted passed their history class:

Had they failed, Captain Logan would have shipped Ted off to Alaska. As a result, Wyld Stallyns never gets off the ground and it would usher in the end of the world. The music of Bill and Ted, you see, eventually brings about universal peace and ends starvation and poverty... or should I say, their latter music. According to Rufus, "They do get better."

Works a little better than the original ending:

TRIVIA: The movie, in all previous drafts, ended with
the Wyld Stallyns and the princesses going to the prom.
This was changed during production so more focus could
be given to Bill and Ted's efforts to start their band.



This was not the first of the Wyld Stallyns duology that I saw. I will get to the sequel in the future.

Bill and Ted's characters are almost impossible to hate. In many ways, they're kinda like Son Goku: sure they aren't exactly the brightest crayons in the shop, but they aren't completely stupid. They may have zero talent at what they like to do, but you can't help but applaud their enthusiasm. Furthermore, if you take notice of the way they behave around the historical dudes, they get no special treatment. Most people, you see, would go into nuts if they met Abe Lincoln or Joan of Arc in this day and age; the Stallyns treat them no differently than anybody else.

This might sound funny, but their speech pattern can rub off on others with ridiculous ease. I didn't use "dude" in a sentence very often before seeing these movies; now, it's somewhat common. Heck, I've used the word quite a few times as I typed this review! I also tend to use "most" instead of "very" when the situation demands. I don't know why, it just happens. 

Speaking of ease, I find it funny how the historical dudes adapted to both time travel and 1988 culture. Sure, Socrates and a few others were taken aback by the booth's journey up and down the circuits of time... but by the end, they were big on billiards, baseball, and Bon Jovi!

Another big boon to the film? The soundtrack! The music has so many great tracks from artists like Shark Island and Tora Tora. Probably tied for my favorites are "Do You Want To Play" by Extreme (where the historical dudes obliterate the San Dimas Mall) and "The Boys and the Girls Are Doing It" by Vital Signs (plays during the water park montage). "Two Heads Are Better Than One" by Nelson is no slouch either!

Then, the atmosphere of when they're in 1988. The Waterloo water park reminds me of the ones down in Surfside Beach and Myrtle Beach (though no castle gate). But my favorite scenes are the ones at night -- especially the Circle K scenes. I don't know what it is about this era, but even when it's dark, it's still colorful; this same kinda thing happened with the UHF review (which, coincidentally, came out the same year). But this whole part's just me.

I also kinda like how we go into the duo's own little world by way of Bill's bedroom. It's probably the posters and the lighting. I kinda like it. Plus, there's this weird leprechaun in there. What's that about?

The disc was so FUBAR that I'm amazed that I got this image.
My only regret is that the laptop wouldn't read it.

There are some weird parts though, like somehow learning Rufus' name despite him never introducing himself. Can someone explain this? Also, the king orders the Stallyns to be put in an iron maiden (which the two think is the band Iron Maiden)... but the duo is sent to get beheaded. Maybe these are just mistakes I just happened to run across, but in the long run, don't really hurt the movie much,

All things considered, this is a must-watch! Name one other movie where you hear Napoleon say "water slide"?


DLA will be return with the Bill & Ted Animated Series

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) is property of MGM/UA, formerly of Orion.

*They pronounce his name as "So-Crates".
** Pronounced "Frood", according to them.
*** Pronounced "Beeth-huvin", to them

1 comment:

  1. "There are some weird parts though, like somehow learning Rufus' name despite him never introducing himself. Can someone explain this?"

    Pre-Destination Paradox.

    They learned it from their older selves, who learned it from their older selves and so on.