2020/09/01

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Red Letter Media's retrospective on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and its sequel, occasioned by the recent release of the series' long-awaited third film, put me in a mood to revisit the first movie.

If you want a case study in how much Hollywood has changed in the last thirty years, you couldn't ask for a better example than the original Bill & Ted flick. The phrase is so shopworn these days as to be a cliché, but this is exactly the kind of movie you could never get made today.

The first strike against Bill & Ted is that it's a strictly mid-list teen comedy romp of the kind made popular in the 70s and that peaked in the 80s. What's more, it has no pretensions of being anything else. Such middle market projects automatically run afoul of current Hollywood economics which dictate that movies either go for blockbuster status or go home.

Strike two is what most readers probably thought of immediately, viz. historical content now deemed heretical by the Death Cult. It's problematic enough that the film focuses exclusively on Western history. The American, French, Greek, and German historical figures' onscreen portrayal as American, French, Greek, and German would be a bridge too far for today's guardians of public morality.

That's leaving aside the multiple portrayals of Christian characters praying. It's startling to think that such scenes were included as a matter of course as recently as 1989, whereas today they're so rare as to stand out. The past truly is a different country.

That brings us to strike three. The first Bill & Ted movie takes traditional--dare I say even pulp moral themes--for granted, especially regarding love and romance. There is an unequivocal repudiation of homosexuality so blatant that I cannot believe it hasn't been censored. In the pulp tradition, Bill and Ted's love interests are a pair of princesses who must be rescued from odious arranged marriages.

The movie even bucks the trend of contemporary teen movies by not even giving so much as nudge and wink hints that our heroes commit fornication with their royal sweethearts.

In fact, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure flies in the face of so much conventional screenwriting wisdom that its status as a minor classic refutes every writers' workshop curriculum. There is not one main protagonist but two coequal deuteragonists. Both main characters have flat arcs. The plot follows no identifiable structure. That's not to mention the total lack of any main antagonist.

But the undeniable fact remains that the movie works. Because it's as packed with fun as 1950s phone booths were packed with college students.

Due credit for Bill & Ted's uncanny success goes to screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, son of legendary author Richard Matheson. It's probably significant that both writers hail from Generation Jones. They wrote the movie while they were still in their twenties and could better relate to how Gen Xers like the title characters interacted with the High 80s world of their high school days.

Astute viewers will note the utter, blessed absence of Beatles references.

Anyway, RLM's review of the first two movies is worth a watch. Mike Stoklasa's burning of incense to the rainbow gang is illustrative of how quickly society has degenerated since 1989, if nothing else.


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was a labor of love made by artists who respected and wanted to entertain their audience. In the video above, Jay Bauman notes that comedies don't make money anymore. If comedians would return to material that people actually find funny instead of delivering dehumanizing scoldings on behalf of the Death Cult, the former king of all genres could enjoy a renaissance.

We can have that world back. The first step is not giving money to people who hate you.

Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You - Brian Niemeier

30 comments:

  1. Mike's mentioned that before. Whenever there are two main males characters he feels they have to signal they're not gay, and that takes him out of it as a writing thing. But that just speaks to how degenerate we've gotten as a culture when we have to question whether two men can just be close friends without wanting to slobber over each other. I remember the chuckling during the Lord of the Rings movies quite well.

    The princesses exist because 1) they're a pure male fantasy of finding chaste, noble women and 2) they serve the purpose of showing the main characters achieving something on a physical level. They don't have much bearing on the plot in either movie because they don't need to.

    Either way, these are two classics, and they definitely don't/can't make them like this anymore.

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    1. Jay's grousing about the princesses being useless is even more obnoxious than Mike's thoroughly Millennial take.

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    2. Yes, the two of them really don't understand the point of romance in pulp stories, which is very much in line with those writing these sorts of stories today. They represent more than disposable pieces on a plot chessboard.

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    3. @JD To your remark about the LotR movies, the actors and the director made many of the deep male friendship scenes gay because I don’t think anyone on the set knew how to depict deep masculine friendship outside of the modern sodomite complex. Kind like how few male clergy know how to talk about Christ without sounding like lisping faggots or teenage girls gushing about the latest teen heartthrob. It’s a condemnation on how few men actually have real, deep friendships with a fellow man in our culture, likely due to the lack of male only space and the demoralization campaign of media.

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  2. Mike always seemed to me to be a moral coward.

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    1. From what I've gathered, Mike and Rich are Star Trek liberals disillusioned with reality being what it is, Jay and Josh are milquetoast Gen X-"whatever" liberals, and Jack is a centrist that leans right. Watching their videos from the beginning to now shows a pretty big shift that I don't think they've yet noticed.

      Refusing to be PC means that eventually you're going to have to face some hard truths about yourself. I don't know where that'll take them, but I know they'll eventually be thrown under the bus by the emerging woke "quality isn't objective" critics when they say the wrong thing.

      It's happened too many times by now to not expect it coming.

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    2. They're self-effacing Pop Cultists. "Don't ask questions, just consume product" is a drunk joking about his own alcoholism.

      It's on full display in the video where Rich praises the TNG episode where they have to quash the proto-Vulcans' deification of Picard. He cites it as a favorite specifically because, "They have to stop the pre-warp civilization from believing in something, and that's what Start Trek is all about." That just shows he's swallowed the revisionist line about Trek promoting atheism.

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    3. @JD: The RLM gang cultivate an aloof moderate image akin to Jeremy Piven from PCU. They don't realize that Piven's character would be labeled a Nazi today.

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    4. It is to their credit that they have yet to throw their audience under the bus, but I do wonder how much longer they can keep it up. There is less and less legroom for grey areas anymore, especially to the death cult.

      But I'll never forgive them for ruining a Plinketto episode by having Patton Oswalt on it. That's the most enjoyable show they do, and he had no chemistry with them at all.

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    5. "It's on full display in the video where Rich praises the TNG episode where they have to quash the proto-Vulcans' deification of Picard. He cites it as a favorite specifically because, "They have to stop the pre-warp civilization from believing in something, and that's what Start Trek is all about." That just shows he's swallowed the revisionist line about Trek promoting atheism."

      Rich is so predictable that I knew what his top choice for favorite TNG episode would be, and why he would choose it. He wears his atheism on his sleeve.

      Strangely enough even after saying that and reading all these replies I've come to the conclusion that we need to have our own RLM like pop culture review shows. Something that's made by people that aren't consumed by the death cult.

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    6. "... we need to have our own RLM like pop culture review shows."

      There are already plenty of them. What happens is either a) They give free advertising to Pop Cult product (attention, even negative attention, is money), or b) they only review indie material and never attract a significant audience.

      To keep from feeding the beast, a review show from our side should focus on pre-cultural Ground Zero properties. JD has the right model with Cannon Cruisers.

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    7. "...pre-cultural Ground Zero properties."
      "JD has the right model with Cannon Cruisers."
      This is what I'm leaning towards myself when I say we need our own shows. We don't need more Nerdrotics, Geeks & Gamers, and Doomcocks (shudders.) People whose whole plan is about making outrage at the latest woke Marvel/Star Wars/Star Trek travesty for clicks and cash. These people wouldn't even bother mentioning alternatives.

      I guess my ideal show would be 75% discussing film and pop culture from the 70's-mid 90's while the remaining 25% would be supporting new indie material. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but I look at something like RLM and think this could be done without all the pop cult worship and more honest reviews.

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    8. On a tangent, I've long thought that Trek is an interesting case for fans because it's always been at least half-'converged' and has a segment of the fanbase who's aware of that and can enjoy it anyway. It really does raise some points about how far the convergence can go before it kills the host, the distinction between 'people who disagree with us' and 'people who hate us', and other points.

      If they wanted to claim 'Trek isn't for you!' and push us out, I might actually be willing to concede it … if they'd be willing to extend the same courtesy to our side in return. That means dropping things like the Amazon LotR series. Somehow, I don't see that happening. :)

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    9. I should probably preface these remarks by saying I have seen exactly one episode of Discovery (the one they gave away free), none of Picard, and have no intention of paying for the necessary streaming service. I'm at the "don't know, don't care" stage. Are they fully converged? Are they worth my time? I couldn't even be bothered to find out.
      My favorite aspects about DS9 are the story arcs that punch holes in the Starfleet/Federation hagiography. TNG and DS9 could be annoyingly PC at times, but they still told a good story more often than not. I'm not sure I've ever watched all of VOY or ENT.

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    10. RLM actually already got thrown under the bus when they panned the Ghostbusters remake. The audience went from "I can't wait to be validated by RLM's review!" to "Oh yeah?! Well, who cares what TWO WHITE MEN FROM WISCONSIN THINK? THEY'RE WHITE MEN!!!!1!!1!"

      I certainly don't agree with everything they say - Mike is a Star Trek TNG fan that thinks Escape From New York would have been better if it had a non-Carpenter score and Jay is a big fan of The Mist because he thinks the ending is badass or something - but they're the most...tolerable reviewers I'm aware of right now.

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  3. Brian

    Agreed. I remember watching it and enjoying it.
    Another reason it succeeded and remains charming, it's not a boomer bildungsroman focussing on the civil right movement, anti Vietnsm protesting or the sexual revolution .
    It was our movie (aka gen x/ gen jones).
    Thus it shows what could've been with the larger culture if the boomers had relinquished the reins instead of holding on like Soviet politburo member

    xavier

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  4. Reactions of my younger acquaintances (mostly zoomers) to 80s stuff is pretty much exactly like in Cobra Kai when Johnny tells Miguel to look up Guns 'n' Roses. They immediately think it's awesome and wonder why they can't have nice things.

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    1. Kids who are 10 now love 80s fare like the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. I'm not just grandstanding when I say that Generation Y had the best toys ever. Those products are an attempt by the wealthiest generation that ever lived to buy off their younger children. The quality is commensurate.

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  5. I owned the soundtrack. Nino Bettencourt's solo on "Play with Me" still blows me away today. https://youtu.be/TQ-zyx3Pdxo

    At one point I could actually play it even though guitar is not my main instrument.

    Unless I hear a really good report, I'll assume the upcoming film is not worth it.

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    1. BaTEA was blessed with an excellent and inexplicably underappreciated soundtrack. It actually captured the teen zeitgeist of the time quite well, which surprisingly few similar movies managed.

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  6. Brian,

    I have 3 nephews and the times there eyes lit up the most was when I gave them Transformers or a Nintendo Switch (plays a great selection of 80's and 90's games). there truly is nothing like toys from 1981 until maybe 1996 (Power Rangers). No shows for boys in any period quite like that time period either. Dukes of Hazzard, Knight Rider, Airwolf, Blue Thunder, Street Hawk, Star Trek TNG, the Wizard, Max Headgroom, Sledgehammer, and this is just the stuff that they put out on primetime.

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  7. So much has been said about the new sequel film. Hollywood didn't want to let them make it, Alex Winters had to cut parts out of his pedophile expose to get it greenlit... It sounds like a real underdog of a film.
    From what I understand however, the song that saves the universe will not be God Gave Rock & Roll to You.
    Which is completely unacceptable.

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    1. The movie was a total humiliation ritual, as one would expect. Bill & Ted are depicted as total losers whose wives have been financially supporting them and are ready for a divorce.

      Their sons, "Little Bill" and "Little Ted", have been gender-swapped into a pair of annoying non-binary-conforming, vaguely lesbian millennial girls who are as obsessed with cringe-y modern pop culture as they are with music from the past.

      The rest of the supporting cast is also weak, often coming off as modern SNL sketch characters with Ghostbusters 2016-style line deliveries.

      Bill & Ted are treated like dirt and disrespected, even by the Great Ones who used to treat them with reverence. The pair are the butt of all jokes and only act heroic once in the entire film. All other heroic moments they could have had were handed over to women.

      The ending was predictable and a total let-down. Don't expect another "God Gave Rock & Roll to You", or any denouement what-so-ever.

      The movie is logically inconsistent from scene-to-scene and breaks pre-established rules from the first two movies. For example, the writers can now show any random thing in the future for shock value because there are now "infinite realities". In other words, a meeting with future Bill & Ted no longer requires clever writing to later see how they wind up on the other side of that conversation in the future. Now the director can just show zany versions of Bill & Ted that will never exist for cheap cell phone commercial humor laughs, and never have to actually write how Bill and Ted get to that point. Lazy writing.

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    2. Sad but predictable. I only say the first film in my childhood. Never saw the second as I usually avoid sequels seeing as Empire Strikes Back and Last Crusade are historical anomalies.

      Btw, can someone explain to me why digital rentals are so ridiculously expensive? I never rent because the price point is way above the value.

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    3. The technician in me says somebody's got to pay for the bandwidth somehow.

      The cynic in me suspects that our leftwing oligarchs hate everything about capitalism and the market except getting filthy rich by acting like capitalists when setting prices.

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    4. The "Get woke, go broke crowd" understandably never accounted for the Death Cult's vertical integration of nearly every industry. They operate more like Japanese zaibatsu than independent businesses.

      This is how oldpub continues to limp along, for instance. Their sugar daddy parent corps give them infusions of cash, and their creditors give them sweetheart deals.

      There's no such thing as post-scarcity, so the whole sham will eventually collapse. It will take longer than everyone thought, but when it comes, it will be sudden.

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  8. Funny. For once the reviewer score and user score are in total agreement. As of this writing, both are at a pathetic 66 (6.6 user).

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