Making the Grades
If you’ve never considered history to be a bodacious subject, then maybe you haven’t seen it from the perspective of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Two academically challenged high school students, who would rather dream about the future successes of their garage band than study, are about to fail their history class. Considering their lack of effort to date, it seems a long shot that Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) will be able to even pass let alone pull off an A+ grade on their final assignment. But if they fail, Ted will be heading off to an Alaskan military school and their musical aspirations will be squashed.
Luckily for these two rockers who say “dude” almost as often as a California valley girl utters “like”, intergalactic assistance in the form of Rufus (George Carlin) is on the way. The alien, who arrives in a time traveling phone booth, shows the boys how to dial up any era they’d like to visit. Rather than theorize about how a historical character would feel about the present day, they decide to get the facts straight from the source.
First stop is Napoleon’s (Terry Camilleri) battlefield where the little general is leading a force against an opposing army. Encouraged by their meeting, the boys pick up Billy the Kid (Dan Shor), Socrates (Tony Steedman), Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis) Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin), Beethoven (Clifford David) and Abe Lincoln (Robert V. Barron) and haul them all back to the 20th century.
However keeping this flock of bygone figures all together in a modern day mall proves to be impossible. While Bill and Ted head off in search of the missing Napoleon, the others get a contemporary taste of the world of aerobics, electric organs and sporting equipment.
Now considered an 80’s cult film, the commercially successful Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure achieved predominantly positive reviews when it released in 1989. Dressed in clothing and hairstyles from the era, Bill S. Preston Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan now seem as antiquated in 2012 as the historical characters they rounded up for their report. So are some of the film’s themes, including Rufus’ attitude toward the two young women he offers to the boys as a reward.
While Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure‘s could never replace a textbook or online research of historical figures, the film’s relatively modest content, consisting of some sexually suggestive innuendo and comments along with several profanities, gives today’s generation a look at what was “cool” 25 years ago. These slackers, who often disobey authority in favor of achieving their own goals, are far from being the “most outstanding” role models ever portrayed. But their good intentions and the film’s comic feel suggests that neither are they the most “heinous”.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
How does this film portray what teen language was like in the 1980s? How have fashion and hairstyles changed in the past 25 years?
Although there are no real historical facts revealed in this script, might this film encourage young viewers to look up more information about the characters that Ted and Bill bring home?
How realistic does Bill and Ted’s dream of having a band seem at the time? Why is it sometimes hard to judge what successes might be achieved in the future?