Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stephen Herek
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 90 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Review Date: November 14, 2012
When they find out that they’re in danger of failing their history class unless they can turn in an A+ oral project, Bill Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) don’t know where to start. Fortunately for them, an emissary from the future named Rufus (George Carlin) offers them a time machine (in the shape of a telephone booth) which will allow them to visit many different eras in the past and gather together an impressive collection of historical figures to use for their presentation. They manage to snare Socrates (Tony Steedman), Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin) and Napoleon (Terry Camilleri), Beethoven (Clifford David), Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis), Billy the Kid (Dan Shor), and Abraham Lincoln (Robert Barron) for their presentation, but managing to keep up with all of them once they get them to present day San Dimas, California, is another story especially since Bill’s angry father (Hal Landon Jr.) is at his wit’s end with his slacker son and is ready to send him to a military academy in Alaska.
The script by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon has fashioned the two appealing leading figures as high school boys without a speck of malice in their souls, but their adventures in the past as they round up their presenters aren’t mined for very much comic gold at all apart from one sequence in medieval England where they had planned to snag King Henry but are thwarted. The various historical figures come along without much protest and don’t appear to have any problem with strangers speaking a different tongue or wearing clothes that are decidedly 20th century designs. The boys do appear to have learned enough history along the way to be able to present a decent program for the student body at the conclusion of the film (though when they had time to plan any of that with all of the other running around they had to do before show time is anyone’s guess). A fairly lengthy sequence late in the film finds the various historical figures making their way around a typical modern shopping mall with Napoleon getting giddy over a water slide and Beethoven rocking out with modern day synthesizers in a music store. Comic possibilities are certainly strong with fish-out-of-water set-ups but are only minutely developed by the writers and director Stephen Herek. Still, the boys’ bozo mentalities that see the world completely in terms of good (excellent) or bad (bogus) is charming enough to keep the film’s many lapses in logic a non-issue especially since the running time is so brief.
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter both float through the film on clouds of naiveté and share a chemistry together that’s matchless making their every word and gesture the backbone of this slender comedy. George Carlin is adequate as the time traveler who offers them a solution to their problem, but those expecting any of Carlin's legendary caustic wit are in for a big disappointment. Of the historical notables, Terry Camilleri’s Napoleon has the most comic opportunities (a bowling alley, a food court, and that waterslide sequence) which he makes the most of. Dan Shor makes a decent Billy the Kid taking the boys under his wing, and Rod Loomis’ Freud has a clever line or two. Bernie Casey plays the boys’ history teacher with infinite patience at their innocent ignorance while Amy Stock-Poynton as Ted’s vivacious stepmom is always a welcome sight, to the boys and the viewer.
The film’s Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is wonderfully consistent and richly hued, and flesh tones remain realistic throughout. Sharpness is excellent with contrast dialed in almost perfectly for a very vivid picture. Black levels are very good, and there are no age-related artifacts to spoil the video presentation. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix uses David Newman’s music score as the primary surround element in the presentation. There is otherwise a mostly frontcentric spread of music and sound effects that rarely have any presence in the rear channels. Most of the dialogue has been well recorded and placed in the center channel though there is a moment or two of directionalized dialogue.
All of the bonus material has been ported over from previous releases and is presented in 480i.
“The Original Bill & Ted” is a 20 ¼-minute conversation between writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon as they talk about the origins of the title characters, the developments of the story through various outlines and scripts, the attempts to sell the project at various studios, and their ideas about casting the two leads.
“Air Guitar Tutorial” features award-winning air guitarists Bjorn Turoque and the Rockness Monster discussing their “art” along with their ten steps to becoming a successful air guitarist. This runs 13 ¼ minutes.
“One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure to Go” is an episode from the animated television series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures where the boys go back to ancient China to try to find a copy of a ceremonial jar that accidentally got broken back in present day. This episode runs 23 ¼ minutes.
There are five radio spots which together run 2 ¾ minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a simpletonish adventure comedy with two appealing nitwits doing all in their power to entertain. The comedy could have been much more stringently developed, but the two leading characters are so appealing that it’s easy to overlook the lapses. The Blu-ray does offer an excellent video and audio presentation.