Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) are two San Dimas, California dudes with big dreams: taking their band “Wyld Stallyns” to world-wide fame… except they can’t even play their instruments. Their futures are jeopardized due to flunking history class and summarily out of high school, threatening to break up the band if Ted’s dad Captain Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) sends his son to an Alaskan military academy. Enter Rufus (George Carlin), a most-excellent time traveler who reveals that Bill and Ted’s music will become the basis of a utopian society of peace and harmony. To help them get the necessary A+ on tomorrow’s oral history test, Rufus does what any cool future dude would do: grants them unfettered access to his time machine disguised as a telephone booth… and leaves them heinously unsupervised. What could go wrong?
Created by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon based on characters they themselves once performed live skits with, Bill and Ted are unlikely heroes, ill-equipped to inspire the world let alone pass a history test. Originally released in 1989, the film had a surprisingly successful opening before becoming a sleeper hit with audiences of all ages mimicking the main characters, and thirty years later is still gaining new fans. The only thing keeping these two substance-less stoners from being as useless as Scooby-Doo and Shaggy is they’re too naive to be cowards, even when they should be — yet everyone loves Shaggy and Scooby, too. What chance did the future (and audiences) have from two guys who think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife?
Simple rules for simple characters, this classic film is fueled by the charm and infectious positivity of its heroes. They’re not stupid, just generally unfocused and easily distracted, poster-children for functioning ADHD in young adults. The only enemy aside from too-serious grownups pushing teens to grow up too fast is time itself, meaning there’s no over-arcing big bad to defeat other than accomplishing the task at hand… all while getting around increasing ridiculous situations of anachronistic proportions. It’s hard not to love unaccomplished would-be heroes who prove to be amazingly resourceful when under the gun, and their timeless little movie is defiantly fun and precious as a result.
Keanu Reeves is currently enjoying a career resurgence with his John Wick franchise, which some internet meme lords have labeled the alternate timeline where Ted gets send to military school and becomes a brooding badass. Alex Winter was just one of The Lost Boys before breaking out as Bill, but his time behind the camera directing far exceeds his time in front of it. The late George Carlin makes a rare movie appearance here, longer than most of his movie cameos; his screen time when not ripping the establishment to shreds with observational standup on prime time HBO specials was spent as the far-friendlier Mr. Conductor for “Thomas the Tank Engine.” The so-labeled historic dudes were fun as well, with highlights including Dan Shor’s take-charge Billy the Kid and Asian American actor/stuntman Al Leong perfectly cast as a weapon-loving Genghis Khan.
A scene where the garage door opens and smoke rolls out hints at Bill and Ted’s obvious origins, but the movie prefers to keeps things far more innocent. There’s also the questionable subplot of Bill’s dad (J. Patrick McNamara) marrying barely legal graduate dreamgirl Missy (Amy Stoch) whom both boys sought to go to prom with as freshmen. Is it weird not to mention both families are unquestionably momless in an almost Disney-esque kind of way? Yes, way —- but what did you expect with a pair of princesses are involved? Catch ya later, Bill and Ted!
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is rated PG by The Three Most Important People In The World.
Four skull recommendation out of four