Spoiler warning, dudes!
With the recent release of the third film in the iconic series, I thought I’d look back at the first film in Bill & Ted series. Despite being a big fan of sci-fi, I never got around to watching either of the original films. I have now watched both, including the belated third film!
Overall, I liked Excellent Adventure quite a bit. It’s far from a flawless movie, but its flaws end up adding to its charm. The film was directed by Stephen Herek, written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and stars Keanu Reaves and Alex Winter as our eponymous heroes.
The film is fairly well-regarded in the film community, but is that perception the product of nostalgia, or could a modern viewer watching the movie for the first time get the same experience? Let’s find out!
What Holds Up?
The biggest asset this movie has is its characters. I mean, the series is called Bill & Ted for a reason, and you can tell that the writers behind the concept have a deep understanding and adoration of those characters. As far as I know, the two writers, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, created and performed as the characters of Bill & Ted prior to writing the film, so that makes sense.
You immediately like Bill and Ted. They have an infections affability to them, and this energy permeates through the entire film, in all its facets. In a lot of ways, they feel like a singular character, somehow split into two separate slacker goofballs. It’s utterly unique, and it works wonderfully. The movie (obviously) has a sense of whimsy to it, and the nature of Bill and Ted accentuate that theme perfectly.
I also found the movie to be extremely funny. I’m a sucker for good comedy rooted in fun science fiction, and I think that the writing still holds up fairly well. That’s not say this movie feels modern (after all, that isn’t the point of this project) – it very much feels like a product of the 1980s and you’re not going to be fooled into thinking it’s something contemporary, but that isn’t a detriment here.
Another great aspect of the film is its creativity. There are some wonderfully weird, wacky, and interesting ideas that are played very well. What would Napoleon do with a plate of ice cream in front of him? What if Billy the Kid met Socrates? There were many surprisingly clever set pieces that I think people today will continue to be engaged by.
What Doesn’t Hold Up?
This movie feels like a parody of 80s movies. Think of any cliche possible and you’ll likely find it in some form here. This is one of those issues that may be a detriment to some and add charm to others, but if we’re asking whether it holds up today, I’m going to err on the side of it being an issue in my analysis here. Overall, it didn’t bug me too much, but as always, I like to be thorough. As a whole, I think most modern viewers will be able to keep up with the references.
The movie is also fairly low-budget, and it shows. As far as my taste goes, there’s more than enough charm and creativity to make up for it, but I could see it being a dealbreaker for some. There were a few times I caught myself laughing at the movie rather than with it, but again, nothing to write home about.
The homophobic slur certainly doesn’t hold up. It was a different time, sure, but there’s no way to excuse it, so that is gonna cost it some points. That’s about it, though!
I had a ton of fun watching Excellent Adventure. I’m not sure if I’m going to write anything about the sequels as I enjoyed them less overall, but this one definitely stands the test of time and I think most audiences will really enjoy the film today. It’s jovial, wholesome (slurs aside), and you really like the characters. I couldn’t recommend it more!
What should I look back at next? Let me know in the comments!