Time traveling slackers and lovers of the word “Dude!” Bill and Ted must find their way back to the land of the living with the help of the Grim Reaper after being murdered by their android doubles from the future. Yes, this is a comedy.
In 1989, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were forever cemented in cinema history as Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston Esquire respectively, in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, which follows the story of the aforementioned teenage protagonists who are given a time machine in the shape of a phone booth to go back in time in order to research their final high school history report by kidnapping important historical figures. How this film did not receive a single Academy Award is beyond me.
It became a hit and spawned an animated series, live action show, comics, video games, a musical and… a cereal.
Seeing as the first film recently celebrated its 30th anniversary – confirming that Reeves is either a Highlander or immortal ageless vampire – along with confirmation that a third film will start shooting this year, I thought it was good time to revisit these characters.
Whereas the first film is sitting at a respectable 78%, the sequel is at 54%. The decline might be related to the darker, harsher tone and heavy existential questions that came from moving our teenagers from hopping through time “kidnapping” various historical figures, taking them water sliding and visiting the mall to sending them to face off against the Grim Reaper and go to Hell after they’re mercilessly murdered. I suspect.
However, perhaps time has been kinder to the sequel, with many people preferring the second film’s bizarre and slightly more adult tone than the original’s slightly childish and innocent tone.
So let’s get into…
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter
Returning from the original film as the bodacious duo, Reeves and Winter are truly the heart of the film. Contrary to popular belief, acting “dumb” is just as hard as acting “smart” and here both actors are actually quite “intelligent” within their “stupidity”, emanating tons of charm and warmth.
Unlike other “dumb” like Harry and Lloyd from “Dumb and Dumber” or Cheech and Chong , Bill and Ted are not the brightest teenagers but have their heart in the right place. Whether it’s facing off in a match of Battleship against Death, insulting the Prince of Darkness himself or tricking their way into heaven, nothing is ever done with malice, making you always root for them to be most victorious.
Also, it certainly helps that the actors have some of the most natural chemistry when they’re together, helped by the fact that in real life they were already most excellent friends, making this friendship palpable through the screen.
“The Man with No Tan” as Bill calls him and inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s iconic character from 1957’s “The Seventh Seal”…
The Grim Reaper is easily the standout and best new addition to the cast. Expertly switching between stone-faced annoyance and delightfully humorous, William Sadler portrays The Grim Reaper as an entity who is only doing his job when he encounters the two teenagers smart (?) enough to escape his grasp, forcing him to turn into their guide through the after life and ultimately becoming their friend.
All Fun and Games, until someone loses an afterlife…
“Choose your game…” The Grim Reaper announces to the recently deceased duo as they prepare to battle for their very souls.
So of course the games chosen are Battleship, Electric Football, Clue and Twister.
This highlight scene showcases the great comedic timing and talent of the three actors, with the Wyld Stallyns effortlessly defeating their supernatural opponent.
Sadler in particular deserves praise with the Reaper visibly frustrated, constantly changing the rules after each defeat, providing some fantastic comedic reactions and dialogue readings after being beaten by a couple of teenagers.
Few things are better than seeing Death himself forced to declare “You have sunk my battleship!”.
Bill & Ted Go To Hell
Undoubtedly the darkest scene in the film, I have particular memories of this moment freaking me out whenever I would watch it as a kid. Praise should be given for a pretty distinct representation of hell where Bill & Ted must relive their worst nightmares over and over again for all eternity.
Perhaps the best element of the scene is it’s unsettling tone, going for light, creepy and uncomfortable horror rather than straight comedy along with some great makeup for Granny Esquire (also played by Alex Winter) and Satan, looking like he came straight from a heavy metal album cover.
(While walking through hell)
Bill: If I die, you can have my Megadeth collection.
Ted: But, dude, we’re already dead.
Bill: Oh… Well then they’re yours, dude.
Grim Reaper: You have sunk my battleship!
Kiss – God Gave Rock And Roll To You
Steve Vai – Reaper Rap
David Newman – Main Title/B & T University
- It’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days. Namely, all of the live action episodes of the most heinous “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures” which had neither of the main actors coming back, switching for the dollar store version of Reeves and Winter and which lasted…(checks notes), 13 episodes, which I’m being told is… (checks notes again), 13 episodes too many.
- On the other hand we have the just as short lived cartoon series called… “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures”. Apparently coming up with new names was not this franchises strength but the cartoon is a moderately entertaining diversion and compared to the crime against the arts seen above (or hopefully, not seen), this is actually quite respectable for a Saturday morning cartoon.