Today I watched Stephen Herek’s Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bill S. Preston and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan are two typical late 80’s rock dude teenagers with a prospective band called Wyld Stallyns. While they may appear as two bumbling buffoons now, their music will be bigger than Jesus and by 2688 the world will have become a futuristic utopia because people follow their words. First they need to not flunk history class though, otherwise Ted will be sent to military school and the Wyld Stallyns will never unite the world in peaceful rock and roll bliss. So future folks send George Carlin back in time to help them in this most crucial period to preserve future history and utopia by ensuring that they pass that history exam by enabling them to kidnap historical figures.
In the way that Bill and Ted become figures of seemingly religious influence both culturally and politically in the future, one could view this film as a religious allegory. I think the key to this interpretation lies in the phrase uttered at the conclusion of the film ‘be excellent to each other.’ Bill and Ted don’t just say be good to each other, they expect excellence. Yet they see excellence everywhere and I would be hard pressed to find a pair as positive as these two about pretty much everything they confront.
It can also be observed here that despite being portrayed as chill and laid back to an extreme, Bill and Ted really do care about what they do and working towards goals. These guys do everything with premeditated style and when asked to stand and speak, they do a whole song and dance. This tendency to go above and beyond continues to enforce these guys’ dedication to excellence and they are unflappable in it’s pursuit. When confronted with the vicious circle of needing to get better at music so they can get gigs so they can make money to get better gear which they need to get better, they simply respond with ‘excellent!’ Because if they did not overcome great challenges they would not demonstrate their own excellence.
Let’s be fair though, this is mostly just a big, dumb comedy that works in pretty broad strokes. Some elements of it a certainly dated, I noted a few homophobic slurs, but it has a lot of energy in even the most cliche sequences. My own over analysis also shows one important thing, that the film really does have a heart, that it presents a fine pair of heroes with interesting characters beyond the stereotype which they are. This movie cares about Bill and Ted, they are cool dudes and do cool dude things like saving the day and kidnapping Sigmund Freud. This truly is an excellent adventure, or at least a very fun one that displays a humanity that I think is deeper than most folks realize. 5/5