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Feature


In the year 2688, a utopian society exists, thanks to the inspirational properties of the music and wisdom of the Two Great Ones: Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and ‘Ted’ Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves). But all is not right in paradise. The Three Most Important People in the Universe task a time traveler named Rufus (George Carlin) to travel back into time to the San Dimas, California of 1988 using a time machine shaped like a phone booth to ensure that the Bill and Ted, then dim-witted high school students, successfully pass a history class. Should they fail, Ted's father, police captain Logan (Hal Langdon), plans to ship Ted to a military academy in Alaska, ending Bill & Ted's fledgling band, the ‘Wyld Stallyns,’ and altering the future forever more.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Fans have a bad habit of letting nostalgia get in the way of growth. I like to make a habit of revisiting childhood/teenage favourites as much as the next guy, but I’m not ever going to understand the emotional twinge that allows people to overlook how utterly dreadful so much of this stuff is. Rather than desperately trying to convince myself that my nostalgia outweighs the disappointment of revisiting something I’m realizing isn’t actually good, I prefer to celebrate those rare occasions where my childhood/teenage self was right. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is still a good movie. Even after years of mimicry, a sequel, and a Saturday morning cartoon series, it’s still genuinely funny, the characters are still memorable, and the general concept is still one of a kind. It’s also a movie that gracefully wears its dated qualities. Whereas other films that embrace their release period’s fashions tend to alienate modern audiences, the late ‘80s clothing and music is an integral part of this film. In fact, in the Bill and Ted movie universe, Bill and Ted’s personal fashions and musical tastes are going to shape the future, so the silly late ‘80sness of it all becomes another joke.

Bill, Ted, and their wacky, time-traveling adventures have become such a solid part of the pop culture lexicon that it’s easy to forget how unique this movie was. The screenplay was written by first-time feature film writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. Matheson and Solomon recognized the comedic possibilities of the late ‘80s MTV mall culture, but weren’t content to recreate the California-chic of earlier ‘80s films, like Valley Girl (which, oddly enough, along with 1995’s Clueless and 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You, was based on Shakespeare) – they created a rich, bizarre, sci-fi mythology. Then they took their spoof further by making Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure a madcap history lesson. A surprisingly accurate madcap history lesson. I know you all know this already, but seriously, stop and think about how creative that is. Stop and think about that brilliantly subversive scene where Bill and Ted escape incarceration by describing what they’d do later with their time machine. Director Stephen Herek’s input is a little less substantial, especially when you compare his work to Peter Hewitt’s more aesthetically creative work on Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, but he certainly holds the film’s disparate elements together with a bit of style and his tongue-in-cheek action certainly works without diverting attention to itself. The only tragedy of the series is Alex Winter’s lack of post- Bill and Ted stardom. Sure, he’s directed a couple of Ben 10 live-action movies for Cartoon Network, but the co-writer/director of Freaked deserves more.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Video


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is presented in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio and full 1080p video (25GB single layer). This marks the first time since the theatrical release I’ve seen this particular film in its original aspect ratio. The video quality here is actually better than expected, immediately exhibiting clean, vibrant colours, sharp details, and plenty of fine texture. The grain levels are minimal (aside from some of the effects process shots), but appear natural for type, without a lot of clumping and only a little bit of jitter. At worst there are some minor issues with a slightly frosted look to some of the lighter scenes and some smudgy bits on darker black edges. Complex wide shot details are sometimes a bit fuzzy (that brief shot of Napoleon’s army, for instance), though this is often clearly the effect of camera focus. Otherwise, the upgrade in sharpness and clarity shows off the film’s eclectic filming styles and palettes as they relate to the different time periods Bill and Ted visit. Contrast levels are crisp, aside from those occasional smudges along black edges. Colours are strong, though more natural than I remember (I have memories of more neon hues), and well-separated throughout, with a few blooming effects around the brightest reds and yellows. The poppy qualities of warmer hues against cooler backdrops is especially impressive without unwanted blooming or blocking effects. Edge enhancement and other sharpening effects are minimal, and print damage effects include only occasional chunks of dirt and little white flecks (there’s a big ol’ black spot in the center of the screen as our heroes attempt to put the antennae back together with chewing gum).

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Audio


This disc also features an uncompressed DTS-HD Maser Audio 5.1 soundtrack. There’s not a whole lot of sweeping directional enhancement here, but there’s enough, and the 2.0 to 5.1 upgrade isn’t awkward. The stereo and surround channels are mostly devoted to off-screen music, crowd noise, and other ambience. The most expressive movement comes out of the time travel sequences, where the electric sound of the time travel telephone booth powering up circulates throughout the front channels and the ‘tubes of time’ offer big directional involvement throughout the rear channels. The special effects scenes also feature a decent LFE bounce without any major warbling effects. As stated in the feature part of my review, many things date Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but the dated qualities are part of the comedic tapestry, rather than a side effect. The only time the film loses me as a modern audience member is in reference to David Newman’s occasionally dopey score. The pop and rock music inclusions make sense, but the score doesn’t hold up. It’s also a little thin at times without the LFE enhancement afforded the pop and rock items. Another fun addition is the nice, wide stereo spread of Bill and Ted’s air guitar sound.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Extras


The extras, which have been ported over from MGM’s Most Excellent Collection DVD (minus the Bogus Journey extras), begin with The Original Bill & Ted: In Conversation with Chris & Ed (20:10, SD), a two-man roundtable with screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who retrospectively discuss the various inspirations of the story, including some interesting stuff that didn’t make the cut, and the process of selling their script. Next up is an air guitar tutorial with Bjorn Turoque and the Rockness Monster (13:10, SD), which is just about as obnoxious as you’d assume it is. The disc also features the pilot episode of the Bill and Ted Saturday morning cartoon entitled One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure To Go (23:10, SD), radio spots, and a trailer.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Overall


My deadset assurance that I’m immune aside, nostalgia does play into my affection in the case of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, no matter how hard I try to pretend it doesn’t. The main thing is that it was filmed in and around Phoenix, Arizona. I specifically lived in an apartment complex on the outskirts of the Metrocenter Mall, where they filmed all the wacky mall scenes when I was in college. I’m a hypocrite. Sigh. Excellent Adventure has some down moments and plenty of flat jokes, but it mostly stands the test of time and earns its place in a fan’s collection with this good-looking Blu-ray release. Now where’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, MGM/Fox?

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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