Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bill and Ted are totally best friends. They are also destined to save the world through rock n' roll. But in order to do this they must stay in school, and they're about to fail an all important history exam. Fortunately for them, a dude from the future arrives with a most excellent time machine to save the day, and they set off to educate themselves by collecting important historical figures.

It's not the most sophisticated of plots, and readers might be excused for wondering why this film is so important or why it is still so much loved after all these years. But the influence of Bill and Ted has been enormous, not least on the lexicon, their endearingly elaborate brand of Valley-speak having spread all over the world. It's hard to argue with their simple philosophy 'be excellent to each other', and the sheer warm-heartedness of this film means that it is always a delight to watch.

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Made on a low budget with a cast who were largely unknown at the time, this isn't the glossiest of productions, but its rough, make-do look rather suits it, complementing the fix-it-at-the-last-minute attitude of its central characters. It launched the career of Keanu Reeves who, as the permanently confused Ted 'Theodore' Logan, suffers from none of the awkwardness that was to dog his later work. As Bill S Preston esquire, Alex Winter demonstrates more talent, but he never had the looks to become a big star. They're ably supported by George Carlin as future dude Rufus, and Dan Shor makes a charismatic Billy the Kid, really taking to time travel. The only weak link is Jane Wiedlin, whose Joan of Arc, despite a promising first scene, isn't nearly as impressive as she ought to be. It's difficult to juggle so many characters but scriptwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon manage it well, giving us a good sense of their personalities. The physical comedy is lots of fun, whether it's Genghis Khan smashing up a shopping mall with a baseball bat or Napoleon going crazy on the water slides in the Waterloo theme park.

The success of Bill And Ted spawned many imitations and was in large part responsible for the dumbing down of comedy in the Nineties, but what a lot of these imitations missed was the smartness underlying it. It's very tightly constructed and there's genuine wit hiding behind those florid lines, which are delivered with perfect timing throughout. It also identifies itself completely with its heroes, so that the viewer is always rooting for them, never looking down on them for their shortcomings. And unlike the heroes of later films they're not out to get obnoxiously drunk or try and take advantage of girls; they're really good-natured people. It's much harder to write comedy that doesn't resort to spite and this demonstrates why it's worth the effort.

If you haven't seen this yet, do yourself a favour - you may find it a lot more fun than you expect.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2009
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Two boadacious dudes totally travel in time, collecting historical personages to help them pass a most heinous examination.
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Director: Stephen Herek

Writer: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor, Tony Steedman, Hal Landon Jr., Amy Stock-Poynton

Year: 1989

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow Youth 2016

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If you like this, try:

Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey