Film reviews

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – Blu-ray Review

First released in 1989, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has quite rightly gone on to achieve cult classic status. This time travel comedy, based around the adventures of two heavy metal loving dudes from San Dimas, USA, who are due to flunk their history class unless they can come up with something special for their end of year assignment, certainly caught the imaginations of pretty much anyone who saw it and appreciated it for what it was: a fun, entertaining teen comedy with a nice resounding message and a history lesson to boot. Along with a rocking soundtrack, of course.

And now, with great timing in this difficult and stressful period of 2020, Studiocanal are releasing this most triumphant of science-fiction comedies, and in a brand new 4K restoration no less, with a host of extras for fans new and old to enjoy over and over again.

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For those unfamiliar, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure concerns the plight of Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (Keanu Reeves) as they attempt to follow their joint dream of being in a world famous heavy metal band: Wyld Stallyns. The main problem? They can’t actually play their guitars. But that doesn’t ruin the best friends’ enthusiasm and determination to pursue what they love and that is what makes these two airheads so likeable straight off the bat. Bill and Ted’s lust for life and what they love (in this case, heavy metal) is so infectious that you get dragged along for the ride straight away, no matter how ridiculous it might seem, and before you know it you are grinning and laughing along as the pair play air guitar to each other whenever something good happens, and make head-in-your-hands jokes and puns that any dads watching will be proud of.

Initially this might look like a fun film to sit back and enjoy, but if Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was just about the above and the above alone it would be about as deep as a puddle. And unfortunately for our metalhead friends from San Dimas, life is never simple and straightforward. At school, Bill and Ted are failing their history class and are told in no uncertain terms by their teacher, Mr Ryan (Bernie Casey) that unless they get top marks on their final assignment they will fail the class. This would spell disaster for the pair, as Ted’s dad, Captain Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) will send Ted to military school in Alaska, separating Bill and Ted. And no Bill and Ted means no Wyld Stallyns! So now with something to fight for, Bill and Ted go about trying to put together a history report worthy of passing the class. But again, life is never simple and straightforward. And this is where things get really interesting.

The time-travel aspect, if not done correctly, could either look far too over-the-top with too many flashy special effects and sounds, or the opposite, a low budget looking failure that ruins the feel of the film. Fortunately, director Stephen Herek got it spot on here and nothing ever feels too much, too forced or over the top, so when viewing the past or the future, things seem to flow nicely. Even our short visits to the future are never overwhelming, just charming simplicity with some cool guitar music.  But before that, we are introduced to Rufus, Bill and Ted’s guide and played in a relaxed and affable manner by late comedian George Carlin, whose advice helps Bill and Ted on their unlikely but bodacious journey. As it now seems there is a lot more at stake than a simple history class!

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It’s from here that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure turns from entertaining-enough-but-nothing-special high school comedy into its current cult classic status, as we are introduced to some of the most important and influential figures in history, as Bill and Ted travel back in time to pick up these people, in what make up the film’s funniest, most exciting scenes and moments, in order to put together and present their final history assignment to their classmates and the judging panel at San Dimas High School.

Without giving away too much about the infamous names Bill and Ted pick up as they fly through time (in quite a creative choice for the use of a time travel machine), scenes at a mall (that’s a shopping centre, UK readers!), a bowling alley, and a water park, involving a baseball bat being used as a weapon, the discovery of the keyboard, and an introduction to water slides, respectively, will stay in the memory as hilarious ways these historical figures attempt to adapt to their new surroundings. It’s also a testament to how much fun the cast were having during these scenes, and that definitely connects with the viewer. That sense of fun and near anarchy comes across and makes the whole film more enjoyable, and when that final assignment scene comes along… well, it’s an unexpected hit in the feel-good feels to say the least.

A really well thought out finale, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s “final assignment” scene is excitingly tense in its initial build up; funny, entertaining, unexpectedly informative, and ends up being a joy to watch as you genuinely feel like you have been on this unlikely but ultimately badass journey with two unlikely but lovable heavy metal heroes. And the best part? It’s only just beginning for Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan and the Wyld Stallyns, as strange things are afoot at the Circle K…

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With its brand spanking new 4K restoration, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure does indeed look most excellent. Right from the start, the film looks like it could have been made last week. The extras for this release include ‘Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!’ – A Look Back at a Most Excellent Adventure, which is a fun, informative documentary featuring interviews with the main cast and crew; an interview with guitar legend Steve Vai; an air guitar tutorial with Bjorn Turoque; an episode from the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures cartoon series; audio commentaries; The Original Bill & Ted; From Scribble to Script; Linguistic Stylings of Bill & Ted; Hysterical Personages of Bill & Ted; radio spots, stills and artwork.

Overall, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is perfect entertainment. Sure, it might not be a “perfect film” in the typical sense but it’s fun, thrilling and definitely has a lot of heart, and it’s clear from watching the documentary on the extras that the film still has a lot of love from all involved in its creation, and that says a lot about its legacy today as a fondly remembered and cherished cult classic comedy. And this edition itself is essential for fans and collectors alike.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is out now on 4K Ultra HD, Steelbook, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital Download.

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