Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure ★★★★

My wife woke up with a Bill & Ted hankering, and not being able to recall the last time I watched either of them, I was down. My big epiphany of the day was enjoying Excellent Adventure more, whereas in my mind, Bogus Journey had always been the superior entry. (I still think it's great... more on that one later.)

The original is legendary because Critters director Stephen Herek delivers a clever concept with buoyant, offhanded sparkle, topped off by a perfect batch of casting. Not just in iconic Valley Bros Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, but also the assortment of historical goofballs they collect. Nobody is phoning it in at all, they're each working impressively hard to embody the popular conception of these real people from long ago, dropped just as improbably into a frothy time travel lark as the lovable title doofuses. On this viewing, I really appreciated how Bill and Ted's big dopey energy bounces off Dan Shor's genial ruffian Billy the Kid, Terry Camilleri's self-indulgent Napoleon and especially Tony Steedman's Socrates, whose baffled facial expressions are probably the funniest thing here to me. Only cryptic futuredude George Carlin knows exactly what's going on and he isn't too forthcoming with details, which craftily ramps up the movie's anarchic drive, fully realized when the gang goes batshit at the mall to the strains of Extreme (the only good song on this horror of a hair metal soundtrack, and only because of that Bettencourt solo... here's my friend playing it!). I was also gratified to spot folks like Bernie Casey, Diane Franklin and Al Leong, links like Herek to the earthier veins of genre cinema that exerted obvious influence on this irreverent mainstream hit.

The other thing that leapt out to me about Excellent Adventure this time was the leads' nebulous intelligence. Like, they can only describe Napoleon to their teacher as a "short, dead dude," yet they clearly know enough about him to deduce that he goes to a waterpark because it's called Waterloo?!? And, if they can somehow pass a class by getting one A on their final project after getting nothing but Fs all year, maybe the administration needs to take a serious look this teacher's curriculum and grade weighting. Honestly, I only noticed this shit because this was the first time I've seen it since I got into the education biz. Looking for mundane procedure in this jovial sunbeam would miss the point most, most heinously.

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