Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) and Alex Winter (The Lost Boys) star in this outrageous comedy about two ditzy dudes from San Dimas, California. Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) spent so much time forming their rock band, The Wyld Stallyns, that they're flunking history. A guardian angel from the future, Rufus (Carlin) come to them with a bodacious solution: a time traveling phone booth to take them into the past to learn from history's most influential people. Their journey turns out to be a blast...but will they learn enough to pass their class?
A highly irresponsible, fallacious, and pretty much outright dumb movie is also a "most triumphant" piece of entertainment, delivering a light history lesson with a phone booth full of laughs. By all accounts, the idea of two headbanging dimwits with a limited vocabulary — a strange amalgamation of Valleyspeak, surfer and stoner — should not be this much fun to watch, but it is. Five minutes into it, listening to this pair of best-bud slackers argue in circles of which comes first, Eddie Van Halen or a triumphant music video, should already be grating to our ears and turning our brains into mush. Instead, the scene is shockingly funny, with a logical flow that actually leaves us thinking, even if it's only for a second or two, revealing the two are capable of so much more.
It's definitely to the credit of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters that the characters work so well on screen without ever turning annoying. For Reeves, his role as "Ted" Theodore Logan is jokingly considered his best and most believable performance. Although he's been in a variety of other movies since 'Bill & Ted,' poor Reeves is endlessly compared to the colorful, gullible and completely clueless doofus we see here. It's the worst sort of typecasting, really, because no matter what he does, he'll never step out of the long shadow cast by Ted. As for Winters playing Bill S. Preston, Esq . . . Well, he, too, does a most excellent job as the incompetent, doltish simpleton who has somehow become the undeclared leader of their two-man band, the Wyld Stallyns. He spends much of his time making a deer-in-the-headlights expression and acting the smart one, who later devises using bubblegum to fix the broken antenna atop their time-travel machine shaped like a phone booth.
Reeves and Winters succeed in making Ted and Bill into a likable pair we don't mind spending time with, which is crucial for a 90-minute comedy. Threatened with the totally bogus possibility of flunking high school, the boys turn out to be exceptionally lucky when George Carlin suddenly falls from the sky to the Circle K parking lot where the two try their best studying for their history presentation. Looking like the epitome of 1980s coolness but hailing from the 27th Century, Carlin's Rufus plays a pivotal role in ensuring Bill & Ted pass their final exam. The legendary comedian isn't given a whole lot to work with in the role, but he's memorable nonetheless, making his appearance in the film very cool in of itself. However, this is where some of the off-base irresponsibility comes in while also providing a cleverly deceptive commentary on the importance of a good education.
After recklessly handing over the keys of a time machine to a pair of lovable dolts, Carlin disappears for a good chunk of the runtime, rematerializing once more towards the closing moments to explain the reasons for helping Bill & Ted graduate high school. Then, we follow the boys in their most excellent adventure through time, which amounts to kidnapping major historical figures like Socrates (Tony Steedman), Napoleon (Terry Camilleri), Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) and Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos). They are brought back to modern-day San Dimas, California and essentially do the homework for our heroes, technically making it a form of cheating. The presentation is on how these people of history would react, behave and enjoy the advancements of the late 20th Century, and that's precisely what the movie is essentially about. Hanging out in the mall for about an hour or two, they seem to adjust to contemporary conveniences most triumphantly, except they'll now go home with a criminal record and possibly a warrant for their arrests.
The script by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon ('Men in Black') — the original Bill & Ted — cares nothing whatsoever for the ramifications of interacting with historical figures or the effects of the experience on each of those characters. Then again, this isn't that type of movie — you're not supposed to put much thought into it. When you're having this much fun, who cares about real-life logic — the butterfly effect, alternate timelines and parallel realities be damned! We just go with the nonsense because our dimwitted heroes are a total blast to hang out with, flying against the most obvious question of the entire story: If it wasn't for Rufus from a future created by Bill & Ted, then who originally helped the boys graduate high school in the first place. Nevertheless, the ultimate message of this suburban fairytale is that even a pair of clueless slackers can make a significant contribution to history. Enjoyed today as a cult comedy classic, the 1989 movie is a most righteous adventure through history encouraging everyone to be excellent to each other and to party on.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue, eco-cutout keepcase and new but ugly cover art. At startup, the disc goes straight into the movie, and other options are available when pressing the pop-up menu.
'Bill & Ted' make it on time to Blu-ray with a most excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that dazzles and shines. The 23-year-old comedy is, of course, starting to show its age and a few scenes are a tad softer than others, but for a majority of the time, the picture is in great condition.
Fine object and textural details are sharply rendered with clean, well-defined lines in clothing, foliage and in the various locales through time. Exterior shots come with exceptional clarity and visibility in the distance, and a thinly-layered grain structure gives the movie a welcomed film-like presentation.
Colors are bold with rich saturation in the primaries, and skin tones come with a natural hue. Contrast is crisp and vibrant with clean whites, and black levels are accurate with strong shadow delineation.
In the end, the cult comedy receives an A for best overall presentation.
The Wyld Stallyns rock out with this most triumphant DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Granted, this is not the type of material to push your system to the edge or test its capabilities. But then again, it was never meant to in the first place. Basically, there's not really a whole lot going on in the rear speakers, if anything at all. The audio is more a stereo track than a true 5.1 remix.
Remaining faithful to the film's original design, this is a very front-heavy presentation with excellent channel separation and balance. Imaging is very broad and welcoming with convincing off-screen effects and directionality. Music spreads evenly across the entire soundstage with clean acoustics and fidelity. Dynamic range is precise and smooth with plenty of intelligible detail and clarity, providing the movie with an appreciable sense of space and presence. The low-end is not all that aggressive, which is none too surprising, but it's appropriate to the action and accurately responsive. Dialogue is crisp and distinct in the center, making this lossless mix a most excellent presentation of a fun movie.
Supplements come from previous home video editions.
Enjoyed today as a cult comedy classic, 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' is an entertaining movie following a pair of righteous dudes through history. Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winters, and George Carlin, the movie is one of the most triumphantly awesome time-traveling movies, made purely for laughs and flying against the face of logic in a vintage phone booth. The Blu-ray comes with a most excellent audio and video presentation, but the supplements are the same found on previous home video editions. Nonetheless, this is great package offering plenty of laughs and fun for everyone. Recommended.