Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor, Tony Steedman, Rod Loomis, Al Leong, Jane Wiedlin, Robert V. Barron, Clifford David
Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
The funniest comedy in the history of history.
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star in this outrageous comedy about two ditzy dudes from San Dimas, California. Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) spent so much time forming their rock band, The Wyld Stallyns, that they're flunking history. A guardian angel from the future, Rufus (Carlin) come to them with a bodacious solution: a time traveling phone booth to take them into the past to learn from history's most influential people. Their journey turns out to be a blast ... but will they learn enough to pass their class?
$6.167 million on 1196 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Monaural
Runtime: 90 min.
• “The Original Bill and Ted: In Conversation with Chris and Ed” Featurette
• “Air Guitar Tutorial”
• “One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go” Animated Episode
• Five Radio Spots
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure [Blu-Ray] (1989)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 21, 2012)
With Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we go back to a time when Keanu Reeves wasn’t a star. Before Speed, before The Matrix, before pretty much anything, we find Keanu as the virtual blank slate. It’s amusing to consider his status at the time, as the combined effects of Adventure and The River’s Edge created an image of Reeves as a stoner dude with modest mental abilities.
How odd it is to consider a time when we viewed Reeves as a limited performer who works best with non-dimensional characters and who sticks with fairly bland, generic representations of… oh wait. Scratch that last train of thought.
Okay, so Keanu hasn’t developed much as an actor over the years. He’s still a reasonably likable presence, and he seems generally solid as the brainless Ted “Theodore” Logan, part of a metal-loving pair with Wyld Stallyns bandmate Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter). At the start of the film, we find that their band’s going nowhere, mostly because they can’t play their guitars worth a darn. (As far as I could tell, they had no other band members either, though additional instruments appear in their garage.)
Not only do the Stallyns suffer from a lack of focus, but also Bill and Ted may flunk out of high school. If they don’t score an “A+” on their history project, they’ll fail the class and apparently will be booted from school. With only a couple of brain cells between them, it looks likely that Bill and Ted will soon bomb again, and this will have grievous results; Ted’s hardass father (Hal Landon) promises to ship him to military school in Alaska if he doesn’t pass.
As we quickly learn, this separation would have a terrible effect on the future, so time-traveling missionary Rufus (George Carlin) comes through the years to assist them. He provides them with a phone booth that will let Bill and Ted flit through time and succeed in their project. What they do with their adventures is up to them, but Rufus gives them the tools to score high in school.
Of course, the plot’s flawed from the start. If Rufus’ future society was created based on the work of Wyld Stallyns, why does he need to go back in time to make sure this happens? Clearly it did occur, and we see no evidence of any external event to threaten it. Sure, Ted’s dad wants to send him to military school, but obviously things worked out fine or Rufus wouldn’t have been there in the first place. This wasn’t like Terminator or Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which someone went from the future to try to change the past. Rufus went to fix something that already existed, so what’s there to correct?
Any time spent questioning the viability of the time-travel format of Adventure is time wasted, though, for the film never attempts to be a clear and lucid exploration of those elements. At its heart, Adventure is nothing more than loose, nonsensical fun, and the movie generally works fairly well within its milieu.
Without question, it’s a great premise. Take some morons and send them through time to mangle history and interact with famous figures and it’s hard not to have fun. At its best, Adventure provides some witty and entertaining moments, a lot of which come through via the loose and endearing performances of its leads. I don’t know what it says about Keanu that he seems most effective when he plays idiots or stoners, but some of his nicest work results from those sorts of roles.
Probably the biggest problem with Adventure stems from its exceedingly Eighties nature. The movie hasn’t aged particularly well, and not just because of its fashions. The whole project screams its era, and it can come across as terribly dated through its look, attitude, and sense of humor. It uses the same form of extremely broad wackiness found in other flicks like Revenge of the Nerds. It seemed really funny at the time, but almost 25 years later, the results aren’t quite so charming.
As such, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure gets different recommendations based on its audience. If you grew up in the Eighties and have a soft spot for the era’s goofy comedies, you’ll likely enjoy the flick and will be happy to revisit it.
Others with less affection for the era may also like it, but that seems much less certain. To be sure, Adventure has some witty moments and it’s fun to see as the progenitor of a genre; would we have the Wayne’s World flicks - which directly echo this effort, right down to the greetings of “Party on!” - without it? Maybe, but its influence remains obvious. Ultimately, Adventure has some decent moments, but it’s not quite as entertaining as I remembered from the 80s.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus B-
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though the image showed the restrictions of its era, it still looked pretty good.
Sharpness usually seemed positive, though exceptions occurred. Most of the movie presented a reasonably crisp and detailed picture, but wider shots could be a bit soft. The issue wasn’t extreme, however, and it created no substantial distractions. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. With a nice later of grain, I didn’t sense any heavy-handed digital noise reduction, and the film came free from print flaws.
Colors usually appeared nicely bright and vivid. At times they could be a bit flat, but those instances didn’t occur with frequency. For the most part, the colors appeared fairly vibrant and rich.
Black levels came across as reasonably deep and dense, and shadow detail was generally acceptable, though a few low-light sequences came across as mildly heavy. Objectively, the image didn’t excel, but given the usual drawbacks that come with films of this one’s vintage, I felt pleased with the presentation.
As for the film’s DTS—HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it was decent for its age. Not surprisingly, the soundfield featured a forward emphasis. From the front, the music displayed nice stereo presence and effects offered a positive general ambience. My only complaint came from an orientation to the left. While material also emanated from the right, the track tended to “lean left”, and that mild imbalance could become a bit of a distraction.
Surround usage seemed limited. For the most part, the rear speakers did little more than add general reinforcement to the music and effects. Although a little unique information cropped up from the surrounds, this was usually minor, and I discerned no split-surround material. Actually, the surrounds rarely made themselves known at all; this was a forward-based mix.
Audio quality was fair but a little flat. Dialogue consistently seemed reasonably warm and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. However, quite a lot of looped speech occurred, and those lines often didn’t integrate very well with the action.
Effects sounded clean and reasonably accurate, but they lacked much oomph; they were clear and didn’t display any significant distortion, but they failed to display noticeable depth. The same qualities affected the music, which showed nice bright highs but that didn’t offer very warm or deep bass. This lack of low-end was the most prominent problem with the mix; while I didn’t expect the track to rock my house, it should have been richer than this. This was an acceptable but unexceptional 1980s mix.
How did this Blu-ray compare to the original DVD from 2001? Audio was a wash; the lossless mix might’ve been a bit more dynamic, but it couldn’t do much with the flawed source material. Visuals delivered more obvious improvements, though, as the Blu-ray was substantially cleaner, more accurate and more vivid.
Though the 2001 DVD included virtually no extras, a 2005 release called “Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Collection” threw in some materials, a few of which appear here. The Original Bill and Ted: In Conversation with Chris and Ed runs 20 minutes, 13 seconds and features screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. They discuss their friendship, its influence on the movie, and the script’s evolution. Their friendship comes through, as they interact well and tell us a ton of great notes. I wish they’d done a full commentary for the movie, but this remains a solid overview.
Under Air Guitar Tutorial, we get a reel with “Bjorn Turoque and The Rockness Monster”. It goes for 13 minutes, 14 seconds as these air guitar champs tell us how they got into competitions and teach us how to follow suit. A lot of this remains smug and tongue in cheek, so don’t expect much from it.
The premiere episode of a Bill and Ted animated series from the early 1990s, One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go lasts 23 minutes, eight seconds and shows Bill and Ted as they use their time-travelling phone booth to find a replacement Chinese vase. As a show, this is pretty forgettable Saturday morning nonsense, but it does boast one surprising claim to fame: Keanu Reeves, George Carlin and Alex Winter all performed their characters’ voices. (They’d depart after 13 episodes, but they show up here.) The show’s silly but it’s still kind of cool to hear the original actors.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find five Radio Spots.
As a film, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a mixed bag. The movie itself operates from a great premise, and it has some entertaining moments, but a lot of the humor falls flat, especially because the project seems terribly dated. The Blu—ray provides generally good picture, erratic audio and a smattering of decent supplements. I don’t think the flick holds up very well after all these years, but the Blu-ray brings it home in a positive manner.
To rate this film, visit the orignal review of BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE