Since its release in 1989, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure inspired a sequel (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey), a Saturday morning cartoon, a comic book series, and launched actor Keanu Reeves into movie stardom. That is excellent enough reason to explain why Bill and Ted went on to become a cult classic of epic proportions. But why is this film so loved even today?
Bill & Ted doesn’t exactly have the most sophisticated of plots: This shaggy dog story follows a pair of teenage airheads, Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter), at risk of flunking out at high school, if they don’t pass history. Along comes George Carlin from the future, equipped with a time machine (a variant on Doctor Who’s TARDIS), which allows the boys to experience history first hand. Borrowing the time-traveling phone booth, Bill and Ted journey to the past to retrieve a few historical characters for their oral exam, but Bill and Ted soon discover that bringing them back to the future won’t be easy.
It’s a no-brainer of a film, but an effective one, no less. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure sparkles with simple charm, a vibrant cast, and a brand of Valley-dude-speech delivered with perfect timing throughout, by the young cast. It also identifies itself completely with its heroes and their simple philosophy to ‘be excellent to each other’. Unlike the protagonists of recent comedies, Bill and Ted demonstrate a heavy dose of likeability, allowing the viewer to keep rooting for them, despite the film’s many shortcomings.
Think Wayne’s World meets Back to the Future. Made on a low budget, this isn’t the most glamorous of productions; with cheaply made sets, terrible lighting, dollar store costumes, and a dreadful soundtrack; yet its make-do approach parallels the slacker attitude of its central characters. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter (largely unknown at the time), are just charming and silly enough to make this time-travel adventure work; which is no easy task given that on paper, Bill and Ted read as one-note characters. But their surfer-boy slang, mispronunciations of names, air guitar motions, and naiveté, make them, for better or worse, the precursors to generations of future movie characters.
Fun fact: Alex Winter auditioned for the role of Ted and Keanu Reeves auditioned for the role of Bill.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a rarity; a stoner flick that contains no excessive profanity, no explicit sexual content, and no drug use – Excellent.
– Ricky D