Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Aspiring rock gods, Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan need to pass their history report or they’ll fail the class. If they fail their friendship, and the band, are doomed as Ted’s father will send him to military school in Alaska. When a time traveller from the future called Rufus turns up in a phone booth with news that the future depends on the two continuing to make excellent music together, he shows them how to travel into the past. Collecting numerous (in)famous historical figures, the pair head back to San Dimas with an assortment of history in tow, but with the clock ticking and their guests getting into trouble, will they be ready in time to present their report?

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – Director: Stephen Herek

Is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure appropriate for kids?

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3784841

Rating: PG

Running Length: 90 mins

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin

Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy

REVIEW: BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE

Sometimes it is very difficult to describe a film in a way that does it justice, and ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ is one such film. On paper, it seems dumb. Two Californian metal-heads who communicate exclusively in Dude Speak have to, for ‘reasons’, travel through time and collect enough historical figures to make a history report to their school. If this were pitched today you could almost fill in the groan-worthy gags and gross-out nonsense for yourself without needing to see a scene. However, through good writing, great performances, and several doses of luck, ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ hits upon a wonderful sweet spot of knowingly daft without being stupid, mean-spirited or condescending.

What this movie has that many other’s don’t is sheer warmth. Bill and Ted, despite their slacker ways, are kind and generous characters who don’t have a malicious word or act. Another movie might have felt the need to have high school jocks antagonise them to force an audience into empathy, or even have them look down on some other group so that we could be impressed when they grow past such behaviour. But no, in ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ such a wider world is kept purposeful out. The movie is only interested in their history report and all they want is to stay friends and keep the band together. So while they may be ignorant of the historical figures they meet (at first), it’s easy to just go with it as the gaggle of caricatures get bigger. The sheer ridiculousness of having Genghis Khan destroy a shop mannequin, an arrogant yet petulant Napoleon fall in love with water slides, or Socrates and Billy the Kid becoming inseparable pals is joke enough and it is a joke that doesn’t age.

Shining out from an already excellently pitched movie is the hilarious performances from Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. In truth, the characters of Bill & Ted are pretty much interchangeable, which is perhaps why they have the perfect buddy relationship. But it doesn’t matter. Both deliver their lines with such over the top ‘dude’ speak that simply hearing them talk is funny enough in itself! Both have vacant expressions that light up when either come up with something even resembling smart. And whereas a movie like, for example, ‘Dumb and Dumber’, invited the audience to point and laugh at borderline offensive stupidity, Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan, through Reeves and Winter’s gloriously vacant-yet-willing performances, imbue the entire movie with a positive attitude. You want them to succeed because of them.

Simply praising what works doesn’t quite do enough but yet there really isn’t any deeper meaning to analyse. ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ works so well because of, not despite of, its apparent shallowness. It’s a good time movie, with no contrived need for conflict and it is literally, scientifically, impossible to walk away from this movie in a bad mood. So remember: be excellent to each other, and PARTY ON, DUDES!

CONTENT: IS BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

Bill’s step-mother, Missy, is only a few years older than him and went to the same school as him. He has a big crush on her which he tries to ignore but, although she is oblivious, she makes it difficult for him with some revealing clothing and at one point, she bends down, revealing her cleavage. After this, Bill’s father ousts him and Ted from Bill’s bedroom and shuts the door as Missy seductively preens at her leering husband. Ted finds this incredibly funny and loudly states ‘now your dad’s going for it, in your own room!’. A disgruntled Bill angrily tells his friend ‘shut up Ted!’. Later in the movie, he tells another character that he has ‘a minor oedipal complex’ (a Freudian term relating to a child (of any age) being sexually attracted to a parent of the opposite sex).

When Bill and Ted come across future versions of themselves, they seek proof by asking them what number they are thinking of; the other two proudly state ’69 dude!’,

Bill and Ted’s first lone venture into the past takes them to the old west where they meet Billy the Kid. During a bar fight, they both end up with their heads smashed through a wall. This doesn’t hurt them in any way and they remain in good spirits, when they look up, they see a group of women in revealing clothing (prostitutes – although this is never referred to). When the pair get pulled out of the wall, Ted sticks his head back through the hole in order to get one last peek at the women.

When in Medieval England, Bill and Ted try on suits of armour and during a play fight with swords, Ted is knocked down a set of stairs. Bill rushes to him but stops when he sees a man run the armour through with a sword. He is devastated and briefly grieves the loss of his friend, however all is not as it seems and the scene quickly becomes light-hearted again.

While still in Medieval England, a man comes across Bill and Ted and orders others to ‘Put them in the Iron Maiden!’, the pair believe this to be a reference to the Heavy Metal group but their excitement is short-lived when the man says ‘Execute them!’. They are placed on a platform, about to have their heads chopped off; they are afraid but not overly distressed and again, this level of tension is brief, making way for more comedy.

Joan of Arc goes to pray in a church and the time travelling phone booth turns up in front of her, it is implied that she believes this to be a religious experience with Ted holding his hand out in the same pose as Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’, she takes his hand and is added to the collection of historical figures the two have. While this is slightly blasphemous, it is very mild and nothing of the sort is mentioned again.

Genghis Khan is first seen taking a large bite out of a hunk of meat, he then immediately throws himself on top of a concubine while still chewing his food and forcibly kisses her. He is distracted and moves away from the woman when Bill and Ted turn up.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE FOR KIDS?

The story may be shallow, the characters may not have much depth and there may be numerous plot holes but ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ is such a fantastically heart-warming movie that it’s practically impossible not to enjoy it. With some mild innuendo and infrequent cursing, we feel this movie is appropriate for kids aged 6 and over.

  • Violence: 1/5
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (any emotional distress is always brief and quickly followed by comedy and/or excitement)
  • Fear Factor: 1/5 (the scene where Bill and Ted are almost executed becomes a little tense)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (Bill has a poster on his bedroom wall of a young woman in a dress which is both low-cut and short)
  • Bad Language: 2/5 (after a friendly reunion involving a hug, Bill and Ted pull away quickly in embarrassment and the call each other ‘Fag!’ Napoleon loses a bowling game and repeatedly shouts ‘Merde!’, subtitles translate this into English as ‘Shit!’. Bill angrily calls someone a ‘Medieval dickweed’)
  • Dialogue: 1/5
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of friendship, following your dreams, not taking life too seriously, determination to succeed, time travel, history, divorce, parental pressure, and the healing power of music.   

Words by Michael and Laura Record

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