Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure ★★★★

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of the most singularly warmhearted and funny movies I’ve seen in a while, even if it’s not one of the best.

This is a film that makes being dumb a virtue: Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are complete dopes and their jokes are silly and unsophisticated, but that just makes them all the more lovable. The film’s final scene suggests that their innocent good cheer and affability will become the dominant philosophy in a utopian future, and the film itself has basically made us love them so much by that point that their aggrandizement feels, if not exactly plausible, at least ineffably right.

Winters and Reeves’s performances (which are virtually identical) are a big reason that we’re willing to go along with the whole silly story. In real life, I doubt I’d want to hang out with either for very long, but Winters and Reeves make every one of their bizarre lines and odd word choices so earnestly charming that you almost can’t stand it. Their interaction with various historical figures they meet on their time-travel adventure is comic gold (for a while)—my favorites gags are Joan of Arc thinking they’ve been sent by God and Sigmund Freud assuming they must be a dream.

The film generally worsens as it goes: Beethoven and Napoleon end up clashing with modern life in hilarious ways (and there’s one more great joke with Freud near the end), but most of the other characters are only really funny when directly interacting with Bill and Ted. A lot of the biggest laughs in the film are their befuddled reaction shots, but the film doesn’t take advantage of their individual personalities as much in the latter part of the story, and there are only so many times you can play the “historical figure has fun in the present day” card without much variety.

Still, Bill and Ted are about as likable as movie protagonists get—role models in their worldview if not in all their actions. The film’s so amiable and good-natured that even a lot of things that should be problems for me don’t register as such, like the obviously cheap visual effects or the 80s pop soundtrack (which I couldn’t otherwise tolerate). It’s all part of the film’s goofy vibe.

Unlike another, more famous 80s time-travel comedy, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s is more of a very funny and affable movie than an actually great one (for example, it doesn’t commit enough to absurd anarchy for the nonsensical plot to completely work)...but it’s certainly a delightful way to spend 89 minutes.


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