Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – Stephen Herek

Coming up pretty soon in DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies book is the most triumphant sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, coming under the Faces of Death subheading in the chapter on the Devil’s Work, so I thought this would be a most opportune time to revisit the original Excellent Adventure starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves.

I remember the first time I saw this film in the theatre, and how I raved about it to my friend Micheal on Monday at school. To this point my interaction with time travel movies was limited to Back to the Future, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, I had no idea that things could be this fun! And there was Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves), two high school students, just like me, using a time machine (that seemed to be a riff on the TARDIS from Doctor Who – oh yeah, I had some time travel experience with him as well) to travel into history to help with their final project.

This was an idea I could get behind, and characters I could relate to.

Sure there’s a singular moment in the film that has not aged well, a single word that is rather jarring now, but everything else has remained most excellent, and rewatching it for the umpteenth time is an unparalleled joy that always brings a smile to my face.

Aided by Rufus (George Carlin) the lovable goofs set off to collect historical personages to help them with their history report, they collect a number of them including a ‘I couldn’t help but form a crush on her’ Joan of Arc (played by The Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin), Billy the Kid (Dan Shor), Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis) Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Napoleon (Terry Camilleri), Beethoven (Clifford David), Socrates (Tony Steedman) and Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron).

The film plays with causality, which, at the time, was my first real exposure to it, seeing cause precede effect blew my mind, and sent me down a number of temporal rabbit holes. But besides that there is something always going on, you can dismiss the film as fluff, and popcorn, but there is always some sort of character bit going on, all the time, every one is bringing layers to the characters.

This time around I noticed something I never had before, and this happens every time I watch it, I catch something else, but this time around I finally noticed Freud and his hot dog on a stick while at the San Dimas mall. I laughed aloud, and wondered how I could have ever missed it before.

This movie constantly delights me, I saw not only myself in Bill and Ted, but my friends, and their existence resonated with mu existence, and just imagining what life and school could be like with a time machine to help you out. Not to make any huge sweeping changes to the timeline, just to make more life more enjoyable, learning more fun, to constantly expand one’s view and to learn, time and again, that things will be fine if we can only be excellent to each other.

With the pandemic, the lockdown, the day to day wear of life, I haven’t always been in the best place mentally lately. Consequently, I find myself turning to old friends, finding comfort in the things I know and love, Bill S. Preston, esquire, and Ted Theodore Logan are very dear old friends.

This film, those involved in it (despite the fact that I don’t actually know them) and the nostalgia for my own past this piece evokes, will continue to remain dear to me and any time Bill and Ted call, I will be ready to party on.

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