The year was 1989. It was an awkward twelve months all around, especially for a discomfited tween such as myself who was experiencing that equally graceless period of life known as junior high. Of course, no matter how ill-at-ease I felt then, there was always a sliver of salvation made available to me on numerous occasions that year courtesy the film industry — who seemed to be making releasing just about every kind of movie under the sun. But between movies like Field of Dreams and Tango and Cash, there were the inevitable, vastly popular film franchises — which many a kid within the parameters of my age group were eagerly excited to see.
Some franchises — like that of Batman — were completely rebooted, in hopes that someone somewhere would finally take them seriously. Others were simply continued from already-established unveilings, such as Back to the Future, Part II and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as Ghostbusters II and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) — two offerings that weren't really taken seriously by anyone anywhere. And then there was an entirely new film franchise; one that didn't extend too terribly long in the grand scheme of things, but which — thankfully — knew darn well not to take itself seriously at all!
Yet, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has succeeded in surpassing several of the other aforementioned movies when it comes to clinging to the walls of film history as a genuine cult classic. But such an honor has not been assigned to the movie unfairly: despite the verity that the film's titular characters are complete imbeciles who can barely form a sentence, the movie ultimately benefits from some intelligent writing. Yes, you read that correctly: I think Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is a smart movie. Why? Well, surely, writing a story about two high school metal-lovin' slackers who travel through time in order to learn something about history really isn't something your average Seth Rogan or Jack Black could accomplish, now is it?
No, it isn't. Look, don't argue with me here, kids!
Upon faced with the ruinous consequences that failing their high school history class will result in their symbiotic friendship disbanded for good, Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) decide to finally open one of their history books. Alas, reading just isn't their thing: not when they're on the verge of creating a rock band that will — unbeknownst to them — someday make the world a better place. Seriously, dude. In fact, in order to see to it that the music of Wyld Stallyns does lead future generations into the light, an emissary from the children of the future — Rufus (George Carlin) — travels back in time to see to it his present-day messiahs accomplish their goal.
So, Rufus arrives in modern San Dimas, California, circa 1988 in a decidedly TARDIS-esque phone booth — a now-antiquated thing of beauty that allows Bill and Ted the luxury of traveling through time in order to meet important figures of history. Naturally, these two genii bring the men and women they come across with them into modern times. Napoleon (as portrayed by the great Terry Camilleri) is mistakenly snatched through time and is given to Ted's younger brother to baby-sit. Meanwhile, Billy the Kid (Dan Shor) and Socrates (the late Tony Steedman), who our heroes refer to as "So-crates" are the first to befriend Bill and Ted as they make their way through history.
Additional friendships with the likes of Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis), Ludwig van Beethoven (Clifford David), Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's), and US President Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) are formed — despite the numerous language barriers present — and result in an epic visit to a shopping mall (to say nothing of Bill and Ted's excellent history class presentation. Also present in this enjoyable tale are Bernie Casey (Revenge of the Nerds) as the boys' doubtful history teacher, the beautiful Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead, TerrorVision) and Kimberley Kates as a pair of 15th century English princesses.
The soundtrack consists of nothing but completely forgotten '80s rock songs, as performed by from several groups who have become part of ancient history themselves. Likewise, the feature film itself is as dated as can be after a span of twenty-three years and following the invention of certain world-changing things like the Internet and mobile phones. And yet, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure still has the power to attract an audience. I recently showed it to my own early teens, who were completely captivated by its charm and quick-witted silliness — which I followed up by doing my Keanu Reeves impersonation for entirely far too long, because it's fun to say "I know kung-fu" and mispronounce Budapest like that.
Having debuted on home video under the now-defunct Orion label, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has since found a home under the MGM/Fox libraries. Though the timing for the film's release on Blu-ray is an odd one (the news of an upcoming third Bill & Ted flick is still in the developmental stage, and neither Keanu Reeves or Alex Winter have been up to anything of note for, well, ever), this catalogue title is a de rigueur arrival nevertheless. The presentation is a rather gorgeous one, which presents some strong colors and detail overall.
In fact, as nobody in the late '80s likely foresaw the advent of High-Definition technology, you can really notice some minor faults here (e.g. the age of stock footage used from the 1956 epic War and Peace, the obviously-phony facial hair appliance used by actor Robert V. Barron, etc.). Some grain is apparent here and there, but when you stop to consider this is a low-budget late '80s comedy, you have to expect some. Actually, it's a lot cleaner than I remember.
Which brings me to a question, kids. I seem to recall a line being in the film from when Bill and Ted visit the Wild West after the boys order two beers at the bar. My memory evokes an additional line that follows the pair spitting out their drinks once they take note there was no refrigeration in 1879. Does anyone else remember that, or am I just getting forgetful?
OK, getting back to the Blu-ray specs, here: the 25GB disc features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that really delivers the wonderful assortment of dialogue, music, and sound effects Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure has going for it. A mono Spanish dub is also on-hand, as are subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.
Special features for the movie have been ported over from the 2005 three-disc SD-DVD set, Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection, though — weirdly enough — not all of the extras specific to the main feature are included here. Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon (the guys you should be thanking, kids) reflect on the creation of their now-legendary characters in a conversational featurette, which is followed by an air guitar tutorial (uh, yeah…). Several radio spots (remember those?) and the film's theatrical trailer are also included (the latter in HD), as is an episode from the short-lived animated series, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (plural).
Yes, Alex, Keanu, and George provided their own voices for the cartoon, though they didn't help the fact it pretty much sucked. There was a live-action TV series of the same name, incidentally, though it only lasted seven episodes and featured different actors. As to why one episode of the animated series and not a single iota of the live-action one are included here is beyond me, as I think it would have been totally tubular if Fox had combined both series along with both feature films. Mind you, I'm not complaining about the odds and ends we have with this release. In fact, I am just stoked that Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in on Blu-ray period.
Though I would like to slip that whole both series/both films anthology idea in Fox's suggestion box for when that upcoming third film hits home video in that not-at-all far-off future where bands like Big Pig and Robbi Robb have brought about peace and harmony.
Most righteously recommended, dude.