I Finally Watched: 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' and 'Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey'
Way back in September, when I was taking it easy to nurse my fractured arm, I finally watched an iconic two-movie series that connected the eighties and nineties and has left many people wondering how Keanu Reeves has sustained an acting career: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
In Excellent Adventure, dimwitted high-school students Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) need to ace their year-end history presentation in order to pass and avoid bogus consequences. They encounter Rufus (George Carlin), a friendly guide from the future, and use his time-traveling phone booth to fall in love with medieval babes and collect key figures from history for their presentation.
The rock-themed peace Bill and Ted set in motion is in jeopardy in Bogus Journey. Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland, who I will forever think of as the Soviet ambassador in The Hunt for Red October) tries to replace Bill and Ted to reshape the future, but his plans are thwarted by the dimwitted duo, Rufus, and Death (William Sadler).
I didn’t take notes and don’t remember much about either movie except the basics. However, I do remember my overall reaction: Um ... huh?
Much as I thought Inherent Vice was either stoned nonsense or pure genius, I thought the same of the Bill and Ted movies—though I’m leaning more toward stoned nonsense in this case. The series elicits an overall WTF reaction. These movies were cultural phenomena when I was a kid (or so it seemed to me at the time) and characterized a generation for better or worse. Both films are funny and enjoyable, but I was mildly disappointed.
What was I expecting? I guess something much more groundbreaking and radical (radical!). Perhaps they were at the time, but the movies are unspectacular and undeserving of the significance I naively assigned them. Can inane stoner comedies be culturally significant? Hell yes! But I’m unsure how the Bill and Ted movies became so monumental.
Are they funny? Oh yeah. Maybe they are not laugh-out-loud funny most of the time, but they are amusing and stupid. Perhaps a second viewing of each would be a completely different experience, especially under the influence of herbal medication. Regardless, both are imaginative and original—qualities that deserve respect.
It behooved me to watch both films because they were so influential during in my youth, and because a third movie is being released next year. That’s right: Bill and Ted are set to return in 2020 with the release of Bill & Ted Face the Music.
Now let’s talk about Keanu Reeves. I like Keanu Reeves (probably because I have a soft spot for Point Break) but a lot of people don’t. He is a very polarizing actor for some reason. I assume it is because his acting does not differ all that much between movies; there are shades of Ted in just about every character Reeves plays—even Johnny Utah. In that sense, he is no different than Sylvester Stallone, who always plays a variant of Rocky or Rambo. There are shades of John McClane in every Bruce Willis character too. Jeff Goldblum is the best example I can think of of an actor whose on-screen persona changes very little from movie to movie. All actors and actresses have their unique quirks and styles; they are humans just like everyone else.
Seriously, peeps. Be excellent to each other.