Directed by Stephen Herek
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
With Hal Landon Jr., Amy Stock-Poynton, J. Patrick McNamara, John Karlsen, Diane Franklin, Kimberly LaBelle, Clarence Clemons, Martha Davis, & Fee Waybill
Release Date: February 17, 1989
Running Time: 1hr 30min
[Possible spoilers ahead, but this movie is 30+ years old as of the writing of this review, so I doubt I’m spoiling a whole lot.]
This totally righteous future dude named Rufus (Carlin) explains that by the year 2688, society is a peaceful utopia, thanks to the music of the Two Great Ones. They are Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Reeves), two totally awesome dudes from San Dimas, California, looking to form the most excellent band ever, Wyld Stallyns!
Problem is, they’re not doing so great in school, especially history class. If they fail to get an A+ on an upcoming oral report, their teacher (Casey) will have no choice but to fail them, which is totally heinous. Most heinous still, if Ted flunks school, his police chief father (Landon) will send him to a military school in Alaska, meaning they won’t be able to keep the band going. It also means no utopian future! Bogus!
So Rufus is sent back in time to give our main dudes a little help with their history report. With a time traveling phone booth at their disposal (it’s not a police box and it’s not bigger on the inside, so it’s not infringing on a certain popular British franchise!), they travel throughout history, having a most excellent adventure, meeting a couple historical princess babes (Franklin and LaBelle) and picking up some totally awesome historical dudes to use as part of their oral report.
This includes French military strategist and one-time emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte (Camilleri), Wild West American outlaw Billy the Kid (Shor), Greek philosopher Socrates (Steedman), Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (Loomis), German composer and piano player Ludwig van Beethoven (David), Mongolian conquerer Genghis Khan Leong), and French soldier Joan of Arc (Wiedlin), and 16th president of the USA Abraham Lincoln (Barron).
At the time of release, the film was a most triumphant success! Made on a budget of $6.5 million, it would go on to earn a most amazing $40.5 million at the box office! Reviews were primarily positive, particularly towards the performances of the righteous lead actors and the lighthearted humor.
It would go on the spawn the sequel 2 years later, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), a second sequel 29 years after that, Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020), and a whole bunch of stuff in between including video games, a short lived animated series, an even shorter lived live action series, comic books, action figures, a breakfast cereal, and other totally awesome stuff!
This is a most triumphant movie! Ok, I’ll be serious here now, I really do love this movie. No, it’s not high art, or thought provoking, with Oscar caliber directing, but it’s so much fun! The major strength comes from the enthusiastic performances of Reeves and Winters, who have great chemistry, and an infectious good attitude that never fails to put a smile on my face. The rest of the cast is clearly having a good time too, and I mean, come on, isn’t just amazing to see a bunch of historical figures hanging out together at a mall, causing all sorts of shenanigans? Rhetorical question by the way, it’s a definite yes!