Random Thoughts: “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” Re-Watched

28May15

Possibly spawned by this ERB, I recently re-watched “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Commence thoughts:

1.) It’s Aged Well. Surprisingly well. The situation is still relatable, understandable and (as far as a story based on time travel can be) straightforward. Most of the jokes still work, too, because they are character based, and most of those characters are 100+ years dead. I’m willing to predict that taking Ghengis Khan to the sporting goods store, or having Billy the Kid and Socrates hit on mall girls will still remain viable and funny. The story structure is sound as a rock with only a couple parts that drag. That’s a hit. Considering the times in which it was made, that’s practically a grand slam.

2.) One Part REALLY Hasn’t Aged Well. The part where Bill and Ted hug, break away and then say “Fag.” Admittedly when I first saw this movie, I probably laughed, or at least didn’t bat an eye. Re-watching this moment in 2015, my wife and I audibly gasped. Not only has it become recognizably intolerant — and not something that would fly in a modern-made comedy — but it feels completely unnecessary. Bill and Ted are entirely lovable and fun for the entire movie except for this one moment. They are not great students, but they’re not dumb. They’re not mean, they seem to be completely understanding and open to everything thrown their way. I suppose this is the time where I point out how the 1980’s was such a different time for homophobia that very likable characters could use this joke and remain likable. So I did.

3.) Another Less Important Part Hasn’t Aged Well, Too. The guitars Rufus gives them at the end. I know, I know, this isn’t nearly as big of a deal as the homophobia, but this has (sadly, for my soul) bothered me since I first saw the movie. They just don’t look cool, or even cooler than their existing guitars. We joked that this movie was filmed in 1987, and those guitars were cool for 3 months in that year. After that, nope.

4.) Brilliance in Simplicity. Everything is believable in “Bill & Ted’s” because it’s simple. These are guys who WOULD normally struggle in school, so that’s their problem. It WOULD be confusing and weird to have your former high-school crush marry your father. And it would be pretty amazing to encounter this adventure the way they do. And not only that, but the problems of time travel is written away with the simple statement that the clock in San Dimas is always running. That solves so many “problems” like “Why don’t Bill and Ted just return to an earlier time before their report?” And, once again, it makes sense: no matter what time period they enter, Bill and Ted don’t stop aging. They are somehow locked to the clock of the present, and so is the story of the movie. Like I said, brilliant.

5.) No Bad Guys. Not really. There are stakes, and antagonists — especially Ted’s dad and his threats to send his son to military school — but nobody is really out to thwart Bill and Ted. Most event want Bill and Ted to pass their report. And the big problem is Bill and Ted coming to grips with their situation (“Maybe we should learn how to play.”). Plus going against the natural problems one faces when A.) traveling through time, and B.) capturing many of history’s popular figures. And even without bad guys, there are stakes to the story, getting raised periodically and systematically.

6.) Very Few Recognizable Faces. Usually when I re-examine an old movie, it’s usually a tour of “Hey, it’s that guy” recognition. Not so with “Bill & Ted’s” cast of historically characters. They were (apparently) cast to look like those characters, and that’s what they were best at. Billy the Kid got work, but he didn’t become Bradley Cooper or anything. It’s weird how across the board it is. As well done as this movie is, you’d think they would have stumbled on SOMEONE who would’ve become a bigger star.

…Actually, that might be the ultimate compliment to these filmmakers: they cast the parts instead of feeling any pressure to cast some established name, or soon-to-be.

7.) Wyld Stallyns Becomes U2. This kills me. I’m not a U2 fan. At all. But the righteous music the Stallyns play in the future sounds a lot like songs such as “With or Without You” or “One.”

…Actually, they never really say that’s the music Bill & Ted play. That might be the music the future derived from their feelings from the Stallyns’ music. That makes me feel better.

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