Featured Blu-ray Review: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
There have been plans to turn the Bill and Ted franchise into a trilogy for sometime now; however, there have been a number of delays. The latest reports have a 2014 release date, but that's hardly set in stone. Perhaps the release of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray is a way to float a trial balloon. Is there still interest in these two characters? Or is it safe to say these two characters are relics of the past?
The film begins with Rufus telling us about San Dimas, California in the year 2688. It's a wonderful place and the whole world lives in a time of universal peace and understanding on Earth. This is possible thanks to the philosophy of The Great Ones; however, in 1988, they were nearly separated, which would have changed the future for the worse. So, Rufus has to travel back in past to help The Great Ones stay on the right path.
It is then we meet The Great Ones: Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted "Theodore" Logan. They formed a band called the Wyld Stallyns and it is their music that will be the basis for the perfect society of the future. But there are forces that are working to keep them apart: History. Or to be more accurate and less dramatic, History Class. Bill can't say anything about Napoleon, other than he was short and is now dead, while Ted thinks Joan of Arc is Noah's wife. Their teacher, Mr. Ryan, tells them if they don't get an A on their history presentation tomorrow, they will fail the class. And if they fail the class, Ted would flunk out of school and his father, police captain Logan (Hal Langdon), will send Ted to Oates Military Academy, thus ending their band.
Things look especially bad when Bill's dad kicks them out of the house, so they have to head to the Circle K to continue their studying. It is there that Bill and Ted meet Rufus, who arrives in his time machine that is disguised as a phone booth. (On a side note, that disguise only works in the modern day and only if the phone booth isn't in the middle of a parking lot.) Before Rufus can explain what's happening, another phone booth arrives, with Bill and Ted, from later in the movie. After proving who they are, they tell the current Bill and Ted to trust Rufus, and with that, our Bill and Ted journey with Rufus through time, starting with Austria in 1805 and they watch for mere seconds as Napoleon (Terry Camilleri) is invading, before they decide to leave. However, as they are leaving, Napoleon is accidentally sucked into the time stream with them and when they return to the modern day. With that Rufus leaves, but warns even though they can travel through time, the clock in San Dimas still ticks. They have a very limited amount of time to get their history report done.
After discovering Napoleon followed them to the present, Bill decides they should collect other famous people from history to help them pass their report. First stop, the old west and Billy the Kid, then to ancient Greece to grab Socrates (Tony Steedman), and then to medieval England, which is where we start to run into minor spoilers. Shortly after that, we run into another kidnapping spree as Freud (Rod Loomis); Beethoven (Clifford David); Joan of Arc; Genghis Khan (Al Leong); and Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) join the group. After a quick and unplanned stop in prehistoric San Dimas, they return to the modern day with only two hours to complete their presentation.
At this point, we run into big spoilers.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure belongs to a sub-category of the Buddy Comedy that I like to refer to as, "Adventures in Stupidity". These are buddy comedies where the two leads are morons, such as Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, Dude, Where's My Car, SpongeBob SquarePants, and others. It is easy to write a movie about stupid characters that sadly becomes stupid itself. On the plus side, there are some really smart parts about this movie. The use of time travel is actually well done, especially the finale when Bill and Ted say they will use the time machine to set up their jailbreak and everything they need is right where they need it. Not only is this funny at the time, but it explains why Ted's father couldn't find his keys at the beginning of the movie. That's a pretty long time between a setup and a pay-off.
Unfortunately, there are also some really stupid parts of this movie. This includes pretty much all of the characters. I don't just mean Bill and Ted are dumb, they are, but the historical figures they grab are mere outlines of actual people. There is no depth to these characters. It is as if the film was written by someone whose understanding of history was only a little deeper than Bill and Ted's understanding was. This hurts the film and takes what could have been a great movie and limits it to one that's merely good. Don't get me wrong, it is funny, but it is not as funny as I remember it when I saw it many, many years ago.
Extras on the Blu-ray are limited to a 20-minute interview with the two writers, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. There is a 13-minute Air Guitar tutorial by The Rockness Monster and Bjorn Turoque. Finally, there's One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go, the pilot for the animated series from 1990.
As for the film's technical presentation, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was made for $10 million 25 years ago, so it shouldn't be a shock that the Blu-ray isn't excellent. It is good and it is a step up from the DVD release, but the years and the relatively low budget are evident. The detail level is good, but not great. The color levels are not as vibrant as they should be. The audio isn't as immersive and it is a front-heavy track.
Finally, the Blu-ray costs $14, which is within the rage of acceptable prices for shovelware.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a good movie, but it is not as good as I remember it. The historical figures are not used to their full potential. Maybe if they had fewer characters and they were more developed, it would have been a better movie. The Blu-ray is shovelware, but at least it isn't overpriced for shovelware. If you are a big fan of the movie, it is worth picking up, but if you haven't seen it in a long time, it might be best to give it a rental first.
- Submitted by: C.S.Strowbridge
Date posted: 2012-11-11