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Film Review: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
In 1989, Stephen Herek released Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the first film in the Bill & Ted franchise. Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor, Tony Steedman, Rod Loomis, Al Leon, Jane Wiedlin, Robert V. Barron and Clifford Davis, the film grossed $40.5 million at the box office. Eventually, the film spawned a sequel, two spin-off television series, a tie-in comic, a few video games and a Halloween show at Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood. The city of San Dimas also celebrated 50 years of incorporation in 2010 with the slogan “San Dimas, 1960-2010 – An Excellent Adventure.”
Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted Logan, two air-headed rocker kids from San Dimas are so focused on their wannabe rock band that they’re in danger of failing their history class and being held back, which would make Ted’s father ship him off to a military academy in Alaska. However, a time traveler named Rufus offers them the use of his time machine to do the research needed to pass their assignment.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure may seem like a braindead buddy comedy at first, but looking into it, the film is clever in the intricacies of how it treats time travel. Interestingly enough, one of the first things the film does in regards to time travel is to break the rules with future Bill and Ted meeting their past selves to give them some helpful advice. And not only are those rules broken, it’s fun to see said rule broken to show that this film isn’t going to be like every time travel film before it. This leads to a fun question that ends up hurting one’s mind in that this meeting is where Bill and Ted learn Rufus’ name: from themselves and trying to think too much about that point will invariably cause one to remember the old MST3K mantra. But there’s other good stable time loops in the film, such as the duo needing Ted’s father’s keys to bust the historical figures out of jail, so they go back in time and place them behind a sign, leading Ted’s father to search for them during the beginning of the story. It’s clever. And the film also shows that the duo aren’t entirely braindead because they remind themselves that when their whole assignment is over, they need to go back and steal the keys.
As for the characters, despite being total idiots, Bill and Ted are also portrayed as true friends who are genuinely nice guys, with the whole philosophy of “be excellent to each other and party on.” They both antagonize each other, but neither wants to be separated from the other and when it seems like Ted dies in the middle ages, Bill tries to avenge him and when it’s found that Ted doesn’t die, they share a bro hug. And that’s nothing to speak of the amount of historical characters found in the film, especially when it comes to Beethoven. When the clerk turns the synthesizer on, he has a look of amazement that shows he hasn’t lost his hearing yet and he’s just wildly enjoying being able to try out a new instrument and a new method of music production. The ensuing scene where’ he’s soon playing a symphony on several of them is a great addition to the film. Freud is also hilarious trying to psychoanalyze police interrogator after hitting on women unsuccessfully in the mall.
With these historical characters also comes some clever historical jokes, such as Freud wondering if he's dreaming when first seeing the phone booth when he created dream interpretation as a psychoanalytical too. There's also how Joan first thinks Bill and Ted are angels at first, making them the angels who she claimed to have spoken to.
All of it leads up to a great climax as well, where they give their report where all the historical figures speak about themselves and their experiences in 1989. Really, the clincher is where Abraham Lincoln gives a speech that shows just what Bill and Ted’s teacher wants them to learn and then goes into detail about how Bill and Ted are his friends and friends with the other figures as well as their own philosophy being the exact same that he is dedicated to.
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