Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

• Weird as it sounds, this is one of the few films I can think of that seriously considers the notion of space-time as a continuum. The past is never finished, is attached to an always accessible and revisable future, contrary to the division of past-present-future into three distinct nodes on a linear timeline. Note that this begins with an already achieved future society whose foundation depends on the boys making good as musicians. But, in this reality, exactly 700 years hence, the Wild Stallyns [the most delightful sic ever written] have overcome the obstacles in which we see them ensnared in present-day San Dimas. Presumably, they’ve already graduated high school, avoided a forced separation, and so on, in order to become musical legends. If they hadn’t done so, this future utopia wouldn’t exist! A potentially lethal snag, this paradox, if time is understood according to verifiable start and end points. Instead, the makers develop the concept similarly to Back to the Future, but with an extra variable, as if Marty went back in the past not only to ensure the known present, but also to shape events in the present from the vantage point of a desired future. This is kind of radical, especially in a film dismissed as a dumb stoner comedy! The first time B & T encounter Rufus and the time-traveling phone booth, they also encounter the versions of themselves that have already traveled into the past, even getting tips from those later selves. Later in the film, the POV is flipped: The B & T we’ve been with for the entire movie are those future versions, talking to their past selves, who are befuddled anew at the Circle K. And, presumably, this chain of doubling and feedback, of the same people interacting with each other at different points along a continuum, in two places/times at once, will continue on and on. This point is wittily reinforced later in the movie when B & T talk into existence a set of keys and a fortuitously dropped garbage can, and receive a well-timed clue via typed note from a previous successful mission run. (Quantum mechanics? Relativity? Cue Ted sitting up, hair disheveled: “Whooooaa!”) The actual experience of time travel is visualized as a lateral trek across winding, pneumatic tubes that open onto the vistas of history. It is quite cinematic and suggests, again, that behind the film’s goofy good-time packaging, it has an actual, working idea of the science of time travel, movie division. (Forgive my ignorance of any concepts described above. I have read some Einstein and Feynman, but, like Socrates, I am all too aware of how much I don’t know!)

• Probably saw this a dozen times growing up. My best friend lived down the block and I vividly remember 8- or 9-year-old me watching this at his house multiple times the summer it released on VHS. At a brisk 90 minutes and full of action, in addition to the fun stuff for adults noted above, this movie has serious re-watch appeal across a broad age spectrum. (I did have to explain what a phone booth was to my kids, though!)

• This is a moving picture. A creative array of wipes and irises propel action without leaning too heavily on shot-reverse shot within dialogue scenes. Why don’t more filmmakers employ this storytelling strategy? It works like gangbusters in the right film. Another theory: using this kind of editing, in addition to increasing shot duration, is incredibly kid-friendly (I think this is one underrated aspect of Star Wars’ appeal). Media is awash in strobing montage that doesn’t allow the eye to explore the contours of a shot. What this does to a child’s brain I don’t want to know. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was made in a pop-culture moment that had more respect for its audience, made with understanding rather than bamboozlement as a primary goal.