I really liked it.
The plot is simple enough. Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reaves)
are two California kids who want to become famous rock stars. There's
only one problem: they can't play their instruments. Well, actually,
there's two problems: they're both complete boneheads, and their
hardnosed history teacher tells them that if they *don't* pass their
oral history report, they *will* flunk out of school. This oral
report involves imagining what historical personages would've thought
of the present day and the local environment. Not too demanding, but
it's still above the ability of these two, and if they flunk, Ted's
sourpuss dad intends to send him off to a military academy in Alaska,
separating the two friends, probably forever.
Fortunately, the society of Earth 700 years from now has a special
interest in them, and an agent (George Carlin) is sent back in a time
machine (shaped like a phone booth -- a normal one, not an
old-fashioned British police box) to help out. So Bill and Ted have
in their hands the best possible tool for conducting hands-on
This sounds silly, and it is, and all the unkind things I said above
about this movie are true. That leads to the question: What saves
B&TXA? Simple enough: Bill and Ted. These two guys don't look like
they have the collective mental energy to make a nightlight glow.
They don't actually have to *do* anything to be funny. You laugh at
them even if they're just *standing* there.
Though when push comes to shove, it turns out they can be quite
resourceful. Like a lot of teenagers, they just need to get
motivated. It's hard not to like them, since they're about as
good-natured kids as you're likely to find. Bill has the initiative,
willing to take risks without hesitation because he doesn't have a
clue of what he's getting into. Ted is a born romantic, a sweet-faced
kid who all the girls think is really cute. Any time he sees a
good-looking girl his heart leaps into his throat and stars flicker in
The story, like I said, is silly, but silliness is hardly a critical
term when applied to a comedy -- and it does have its moments, such as
Napoleon at the water slides, and Genghis Kahn ... well, I won't say
any more. It certainly does pander to teenagers: nearly all the
adults are creeps or morons, and the kids turn the tables on them in
the end -- but it also made me feel wistful. I didn't have fun being
a teenager and this film suggests to me in its own bizarre way that it
could've been more fun than it was. The only thing I can seriously
say against B&TXA was that by the time it was over I was glad I didn't
have to listen to "PARTY ON, DUDE!" and "EXCELLENT!" one more time.
BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE isn't the sort of thing that would
win awards, in fact nobody in their right mind would recommend it for
one. Some movies are like expensive dinners; others are like Big
Macs. But as Big Macs go, BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE tastes
Oh, yeah, the usual cautions: No noticeable bad language, overt
sexual activity, or graphic violence (unless you are the sort of
person who feels that the Three Stooges are a bad influence on kids).
And definitely, absolutely not for people who are into serious cinema.
[Minor update of review from 1989 -- GVG]