For Keanu Reeves his appearance in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure would be most triumphant. Indeed it turned out to be most excellent for the young actor who was only 25 when the film came out having been building his career in films for the previous five years. Along with actor Alex Winter the pair attended an audition with a group of other actors , bonded instantly which was picked up the writers and director and would find themselves cast in a Californian based film that would have them playing roles that were part surfer, part stoner, part valley boy but all immensely likeable with their own lingo that made the words, ‘bogus’, ‘excellent’, ‘Yes way’, ‘Party on, dude!’ and ‘Whoa!’ enter teenage parlance. The film certainly put Reeves on the map yet at the same time had eternally cast in that kind of role and it would take him quite some years to shake the image with which he went to great lengths to do so appearing in Francis Ford Coppola’s ’Dracula’, Kenneth Brannagh’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Little Buddha’. Appearing in the sequel however only compounded the issue and it wasn’t really until 1994’s brilliant action blockbuster ‘Speed’ that he finally left the role firmly behind him.
Based on characters created by screenwriters Chris Matheson & Ed Soloman that had been borne out of a stand up act that the pair tried out before writing the script where the characters traveled through time in a camper van meeting various historical figures. Ted Logan (Reeves) & Bill S Preston (Winter)were in danger of flunking school if they failed their their history exam most heinously and if that happened their totally bodacious band ‘Wyld Stallyns’ will be broken up as Bill’s father will send him to military school. Bogus! They meet Rufus (George Carlin) a dude in a time travelling phone booth who informs them the fate of the future is in their hands and the songs they will write together. Racing from ancient Greece to the Wild West, 19th century Europe and even the future the pair bag a host of heavyweights from each stop to take back for their presentation. The history of the world may be rewritten by pair of students who can’t even spell.
Originally the actors were to play each others roles which some might argue were interchangeable anyway and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had them both travelling time in a camper van but it was too close to the immense success of the mighty ‘Back to the Future’ and director Stephen Herek came up with the telephone kiosk an ideal replacement if not always practical when the actors found themselves rammed in their in heavy costumes under hot studios lights with everyone having to hold their breath from the burgeoning smell. It wasn’t the only change made to the script as the ending had the characters from different era’s delivering speeches and it was all rather dry and dull. A dazzling light show presentation put an end to that.
The script for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had gone through a number of studios including Warners and even Dino De Laurentiis and was destined to end up on HBO before Nelson Entertainment swooped in buying up the rights for a mere $1m and distributing it through the cinemas where it took off earning $40m internationally assuring a sequel two years later. The film has remained popular for decades and its success arguably led the way for Wayne’s World in 1992. It’s hardly surprising that with a third eagerly anticipated film about to be released 30 years later with both the original leads that the first film has been reissued with a 4K blu ray & UHD release with an enormous bunch of bonus features. Excellent!
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has had a decent 4K transfer for what was a relatively low budget film and there’s two commentaries – the first by the screenwriters and the second by Alex Winter and the film producer Scott Kroopf and its a missed opportunity that Reeves is not on this but quite how chatty he would be is debatable as a featurette with the pair of them looking back at the film has Winter extremely chatty and effusive whereas Reeves is notably quieter and thoughtful almost in complete contrast to his screen character. The screenwriters Mattheson & Solomon get a lot of coverage in the bonus features with both of them discussing the inception of the idea and getting it written and there’s also a feature with their handwritten notes for the first draft which for budding writers gives a glimpse as to how much the script had changed by the time it was eventually shot. The disc has some unusual extras too including an episode from the animated TV series, a radio spot and even an air guitar tutorial as well as an interview with guitarist Steve Vai and for fans of the film this edition of the disc is as much as can be expected for many who remember and loved the film from its release back in 1989. All in all this Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure disc is triumphant and most excellent.
Here’s the trailer for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure……..
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is available on blu-ray, DVD, UHD & digital download on 10th August 2020