Directed by Stephen Herek
Two morons destined to change human civilization for the better must pass their history report. Otherwise they will be separated, and history will be changed for the worse.
Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are two slackers with big dreams and little intellect. They dream of starting a band called Wyld Stallyns and becoming rock stars but poor grades and the threat of military school for one of them threatens their future.
This is one of the more unusual films from 1989. It is a charming comedy that just has fun with the idea of time travel. The rules that govern it are paper thin here and ignore the whole concept of causality. The idea itself is as much a rip off of Doctor Who as it is a rip off of Back to the Future. Yet it still manages to be something unique and even original. That is often something that creators cannot accomplish when borrowing from or mashing together the basics of two or more sources. Rather than put a fresh spin on things, they create something utterly unoriginal instead. Here they avoid that by not only liberally borrowing from two previously established universes but also by anchoring the plot and the characters firmly in the teen comedy genre of the time.
It is especially entertaining how they use time travel to succeed. Collecting all the historical figures is indeed entertaining but the real kicker is the theft of the keys among other things by their future selves that they use in order to accomplish their goal. After being successful they had to ensure their success. It is a time loop. I recall after this movie came out a few more serious time travel takes that were not of the quality of this film nor theatrical releases used that idea.
I do not think you could assemble a better cast than what they had here. Bill and Ted were just perfectly cast. That Keanu Reeves went from this to some of the more complex roles he has done to being an action star is kind of mine boggling to me. Most featured players in teen comedies failed to amount to much of anything. Alex Winter himself has gone on to directing. Truth be told I expected him to move into television acting taking on well-regarded second fiddle roles.
George Carlin’s appearance as Rufus is little better than a cameo that gives some comedic weight to a film that starred some then relative unknowns. It is probably one of the most iconic cameos in movie history though. He is strongly identified with this movie, but he is not in that much of it. Think about it. There are three characters you connect with this. Only two of them are in that much of the movie.
Every time machine has a control mechanism. Usually it is some complex looking control panel or some fantastical looking object but here by running with the phonebooth motif they create something whimsical where the characters dial numbers to use The Circuits of Time. Area codes included.
There is not much in the way of plot. Collect historical figures to use in a presentation and pass the course. But it is more than some teen comedies of the time. Regardless, this is just 90 minutes of relaxing silliness. Deep thought is not required. And sometimes you need a little junk food with your more serious things.
My only gripe is that this film while a theatrical release looks like a well-produced television movie. The production values are that bad. It is the way I have felt since first seeing it. The shots were tight. The future sets looked cheap. The background was sparsely filled. And every bit of the past looked like it was filmed in a local park. The film fortunately manages to overcome these issues by simply being fun.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a silly movie. It is not deep thinking nor is it intended to be. It is a silly teen comedy from a time when they were big theatrical business and this one is done right. Watch this and enjoy yourself and be excellent to each other.