Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

The '80s were a mixed bag of a decade when it came to pop culture. Some of the best and some of the worst spewed forth with equal measure from this volcanic dynamo of decades. The final year of the '80s (1989 for those of you who hate math), however, saw the advent of unforgettable films that, to this day, hold fond memories the world over.

Tim Burton's Batman, The Little Mermaid, and When Harry Met Sally are just the tip of the iceberg of amazing films from this cinematic treasure trove. There are also comedic goldmines like The 'Burbs, Uncle Buck, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Even cult classics like UHF, The Wizard, and Weekend at Bernie's still stand the test of time. Let's not forget the bonanza of sequels – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future II, Ghostbusters II, and Lethal Weapon II – that effectively printed money for the box offices.

Even amidst these shining examples of cinematic achievement there stands a single movie that has yet to be surpassed in its excellence. That movie, ladies and gentlemen, is Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Let's take a journey through space, time, and logic with Bill S. Preson, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan as two Wyld Stallyns from San Dimas trying their damnedest not to flunk their history class by looking to a cavalcade of historical figures for help. The movie stars Keanu Reeves, who isn't so much acting as he is being himself, Alex Winter, proving that Englishmen can talk with surfer accents just as well as they can with southern accents, and George Carlin as the totally bodacious mentor dude Rufus.

Are the nanobots ready for this most triumphant of adventures? We can see them doing air guitar under our microscopes, so we're going to take that as a confirmation.
  • A diamond slowly approaches a clock to the sound of female-fronted synth-pop. For a moment, the nanobots think they're scoring another movie and briefly pause playing air guitar. = -3pts 
  • '80s fashion alert: Bill's belly shirt and Ted's vest-over-a-Van-Halen-t-shirt-while-tying-your-jacket-around-your-waist ensemble. = -2pts 
  • The Wyld Stallyns jam so triumphantly (or non-triumphantly, depending on how you look at it) that they blow their stereo equipment. Gnarly! = +3pts 
  • All stalemate arguments should end with an air guitar solo while shouting, “EXCELLENT!” = +5pts 
  • Bill and Ted are gonna flunk their most heinous history class unless they turn in a most triumphant oral report. But how ever will they do it in time? Guess the rest of the film will be about them studying really hard and triumphing over adversity through determination... psych! = +3pts 
  • Ted wants to give Bill’s step-MILF a most triumphant oral report, if you get our drift – wink wink, nudge nudge. Also, so does Bill. Yuck? = +/-0 points 
  • Ted’s dad-cop, with a visibly holstered pistol, threatens to send Ted to Alaskan military school if he fails history. He then changes his mind and enrolls Ted anyway. Harsh, dude! = -5pts 
  • Cool ‘80s future tribunal send Rufus back in time in a phone booth powered by electricity and righteous guitar solos. = +7pts 
  • Ted’s white whale hunting version of George Washington should be its own movie. He could, like, sail around the Delaware River looking for Moby Dick and then Mastodon would write a concept album about it. Totally tubular! = +12pts 
  • When a man steps out of a phone booth that just magically appeared in front of you and your first thought is to ask him when the Mongols ruled China, flunking your history exam should really be the least of your worries. = -4pts 
  • “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” = +7pts 
  • Napoleon’s reaction to seeing Bill and Ted appear from the ether in their time booth: “Blow them up.” = +5pts 
  • After being given the mystical abilities to travel time, Bill and Ted don't use it to find the winning lottery numbers, or try to kill Hitler, or submit to any time travel cliché. They just want to ask a bunch of old dead dudes about the past and stuff so that they can like totally continue rocking out with Wyld Stallyns. It's the simple things, dudes. = +4pts 
  • What could go wrong with entrusting your little brother to watch a megalomaniacal dictator? (Spoiler: Nothing, really... Who would have guessed that?) = -4pts 
  • 19th century New Mexico taverns totally don't card you for beers, dude! = +3pts 
  • Bill and Ted get Billy the Kid involved in a knock-down drag-out bar brawl that starts with a hooker flying through a window and ends with Billy the Kid tossing around a Nerf football in ancient Greece. = +10pts 
  • So-Crates gets his mind blown by Bill's recitation of soap opera philosophy. = +5pts 
  • Bill and Ted see a medieval castle and don’t say anything about King Arthur. Bogus? = -3pts 
  • In order to hook up with historical babes, the most excellent protagonists adorn themselves in plate mail and sneak into the castle but then get distracted by their bro-ness and have mock lightsaber fights with broadswords. = +15pts 
  • Guards immediately stab Ted after he falls down a flight of stairs in a suit of armor that he took from the very castle that they were guarding. The middle ages weren't no joke! = -4pts 
  • After surviving a run-in with a medieval dickweed, Bill realizes that Ted is alive; they embrace and then immediately call each other fags. +5 pts in 1989, -20pts in 2014. Total score = -15pts 
  • While Iron Maiden in your ears is excellent, Iron Maiden on your body is bogus. = +6pts 
  • History's most famous philosophizer and most infamous gunslinger rescue Bill and Ted from death by decapitation and then lead their escape through the streets of medieval England in a horse-drawn carriage. This sounds just as badass on paper as it did when it appeared on screen. = +20pts 
  • Those living in a future built upon The Wyld Stallyns's ethos of being excellent to each other solemnly strum air guitar in a way that is not uncomfortable and creepy... psych! = -5pts 
  • Just as Napoleon earned medals for conquering most of Europe, so too did he earn a Ziggy Piggy badge for eating the stomach-achiest of ice cream sundaes. = +8pts for how good the sundae looked, -4pts for the obnoxious waiters. Total score = +4pts 
  • Sigmund Frood, Beeth-Oven, Noah’s wife, and Quintessential Asian Bad Guy Al Leong are unceremoniously wrenched from their timelines. Meanwhile, Abraham Lincoln (a lover of beautiful turns of phrase) can't resist the allure of a Candygram. = +11pts 
  • Napoleon cheats at bowling, gets ditched by his babysitters, and then gets thrown out onto the street. He takes things about as well as you could imagine. = +6pts 
  • Fixing the antennae of your time machine with pudding cans and gum chewed by history's greatest achievers. = +8pts 
  • Need to show historical figures doing chores around the house to further the plot somehow? Better make it a montage! = +15pts 
  • No one loves anything like Napoleon loves a water slide. = +7pts 
  • Need to show historical figures getting arrested for anachronistic shenanigans? Better make it a montage that includes: 
    • Siggy, Billy, and So-Crates embarrassing themselves in front of mall bimbos. = -3pts 
    • Abraham Lincoln pushing down the Glamour Shots guy for trying to steal his hat. = +5pts 
    • Joan of Arc claiming victory over an aerobics instructor. = +7pts 
    • Beethoven playing every synthesizer in San Dimas at once. = +5pts 
    • Ghengis Khan conquering the sporting goods outlet. = +6pts 
  • Ted’s dad doesn’t know Abe Lincoln’s birthday, so who is he to get angry at his son for flunking history? = -3pts 
  • So long as you, like, totally don't forget to do the thing that you said you did when you needed it to be done, you can make anything appear whenever you need it to. As Ted ingeniously points out, the thing you did wouldn't have been done if you forgot to do it, so you must have done it, right? Radical! = +10pts 
  • '80s alert: punk with an enormous bleached mohawk smokes a cigarette indoors. = +2pts 
  • Abe Lincoln may be impressed with San Dimas, but he wouldn’t be impressed with Santa Carla (because of all the damned vampires). = +3pts 
  • Bill and Ted's plan to make history come alive completely works without any negative repercussions whatsoever. Bitchin'! = +20pts 
  • You can tell a speech was good when audience members stop mid-applause to high five each other. = +4pts 
  • Having The Great Emancipator gleefully and un-ironically proclaim, “Be awesome to each other... and party on, dudes!”= +12pts (Thanks, Candygram!)
  • The moral of the story is that by getting good grades in school, kids can be like Bill and Ted and bag time-displaced princesses, sweet electric guitars, and contribute to the creation of a futuristic utopia. Cowabunga! = +25pts 
Total Score = +207pts
Available on Blu-Ray, Netflix, and adolescent slumber parties circa 1990.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure still holds up to be one of the best examples of how to correctly make a “Couple of Bros Get in Trouble” movie. Aside from laughing at both the dated references and how exaggerated the actors' performances are, the movie is chock-full of situational comedy that's funny regardless of where in the timestream you find yourself. Given that the nanobots are still playing imaginary guitars at each other, we can only label this film as most triumphant. Remember – be awesome to each other... and party on, dudes!

Score Technician: TJ Geise

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