Cult Classic: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
With Bill & Ted apparently gearing up for a third installment, we decided to revisit one of the guiltiest pleasures of the late 1980s – the duo’s “Excellent Adventure”.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has a much greater legacy than most teen comedies of its ilk, though it doesn’t seemingly have the grand ambitions of pinpointing teenage behaviour, as seen in revered examples such as Clueless or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Rather, the film’s most recent comparison would have to be the similarly dim-witted duo from Dude, Where’s My Car?, yet only one of these films became a pop culture phenomenon and is still spoken highly of today. Sorry Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott; it’s not your effort.
Though he is one of the biggest stars in the world and is clearly indebted to the success of Bill & Ted, from the moment Keanu Reeves uttered his first spaced-out “Woah!”, he set himself up for a lifetime of type-casting and lazy critical revulsion in his acting roles for the next three decades.
Simply put, many could not and still can’t disassociate the seemingly ageless pretty boy actor as the dumb “Ted” Theodore Logan, even after he entered The Matrix and wisely decided not to hitch a ride on Speed 2: Cruise Control.
Keanu is one half of our heroic duo in Excellent Adventure, with Alex Winter (who?) his equally simple friend Bill – though curiously enough, each actor originally auditioned for the other’s part. Yet while we do want to go into deal regarding the two, we must first pay our respects to the late, great George Carlin’s character of Rufus.
The film opens quite surprisingly with the news that Earth is a utopian society in the year 2688 – as explained by Rufus – thanks to the eternal wisdom and music of the historical “Two Great Ones” – Bill & Ted – and their “Wild Stallyns” band. That is, however, only possible if Rufus is able ensure that the two pass their 1988 high school history exam.
From here the film introduces concepts such as a phone booth time machine and indeed, a helpful time machine phone book, before taking cinemagoers on a trip to 1805 (where Napoleon Bonaparte shows up and gets lost in present day at a “Waterloo” water park), the Wild West and 15th century England.
Eventually Bill & Ted realise that if they want to set the future on the right path and ace that history exam, then why not kidnap a wealth of historical figures to use in their presentation?
Soon Beethoven (the pianist, not the dog, unfortunately), Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Sigmund Freud and Genghis Khan turn up during the film’s zippy run time, though all are best used in a wonderfully observed mall scene. Joan of Arc leading a Jane Fonda-inspired 1980s workout class? Inspired.
Viewed 25 years on – after all the catchphrases, the relatively disappointing sequel (Bogus Journey), spin-off breakfast cereal and cartoon show – what holds up is that despite the misadventures of Bill & Ted, the film actually uses its historical figures expertly, imparting some knowledge amid the easy chemistry of Reeves, Winter and Carlin.
That a film for its target audience would even think to use historical figures in such a way is admirable and actually quite ambitious. Those Keanu critics should realise that actually, there’s no shame whatsoever in starring in a Bill & Ted film, which might explain why the actor is returning for another.
That’s right; according to the film’s two stars, Bill & Ted are set for another adventure with the original screenwriters hard at work on a third installment that will apparently involve time travel with an adult Bill & Ted time travelling to the prehistoric era.
Honestly, with the amount of sequels, prequels and reboots in Hollywood these days, we say why not? Having rewatched the first cinematic meeting of the two, we reckon another adventure between Bill & Ted would be “most excellent”, even if we had to wait over 20 years for it. If only time machine phone books really had existed…
For more cult films, check out the Jameson Cult Film Club.