I Have Never Seen ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’

By  · Published on November 10th, 2014

Orion Pictures

Ashe never got to see a ton of modern classics from his youth, so we’re making him watch them all as a nostalgia-less adult. Check out the inaugural article for more info.

Since I had fun doing a themed month for Halloween, I think I’ll do another for November! There aren’t many Thanksgiving films, however, so I’ve decided to do something not-so-seasonal: 80s pop sci-fi movies. Not the hard stuff. I’m looking for lighter fare, and I’ve started with some of the softest sci-fi there is: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Messrs. Bill S. Preston, esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan were pop culture icons in my childhood, but I never managed to see either of their films. I do recall a short-lived animated show, but I couldn’t tell you much about it except that I’m fairly sure George Carlin did his own voice. And with a quick Google, I discover that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter did their own voices, too. How do you like that?

Anyway, going into the movie, I was prepared. I knew what the characters were: dopey slackers who are more interested in rock music and women than… pretty much anything. A slightly more refined Beavis and Butt-Head, if you will. What I was not prepared for was how exceptionally poorly the film holds up.

There’s just no way around it. The film is one 90-minute joke:

The punchline is always “Very.”

Nowadays, that’s an entire genre. Dumb and Dumber; Dude, Where’s My Car?; Harold and Kumar; the list goes on and on. (Even the dumb rocker subgenre has movies like Airheads and Wayne’s World.) Now, I like dumb humor. I really like it when something unexpectedly stupid happens in a movie. I’ll laugh at farts, I don’t give a damn. But Bill and Ted is an hour and a half of, “Oh, they don’t understand because they’re so stupid.” And it wears thin so, so fast.

That dumb rocker stereotype can be done well. Metalocalypse pulls it off. The difference is that, in the case of that show, there’s more to it. Bill and Ted is just kind of bland. Obviously, this is an issue with watching it in 2014. I’m not saying that America got hoodwinked or that millions of people were fools for liking it. It just doesn’t work too far outside of the context of 1988.

That also includes some fairly uncomfortable things, like when Bill and Ted briefly hug and then call each other fags. Very classy. And then there’s the difficult-to-ignore fact that the movie basically skips over anything outside of Western history (with the notable exception of Genghis Khan, who is nothing but a screaming barbarian). Good, old 1988.

You’ve also got to admire the irony that time travelers from 700 years in the future use phone booths to get around when, just twenty five years later in real time, actual phone booths are few and far between. It’s also fair to question how intentional it was to use a phone booth when The Doctor had already been using a police call box to get around for decades at that point. Even if he wasn’t popular in America yet, I can’t imagine someone didn’t point that out somewhere during production.

I will admit that the sequence where the titular characters are planning to perform actions after their report to distract Ted’s dad is super clever, and having seen a lot of time travel movies, it’s rare to see something unique like that. I’m surprised it hasn’t been ripped off more frequently. (I’m sure it has been at least once, but I’ve not seen it.)

It doesn’t really hold up, but it did bring us one of the greatest film quotes in history and just general good advice to boot: “Be excellent to each other.”

For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and his book, The Book of Word Records, available now!