"Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K": Introducing a Teen to the Teen Canon of the 1980s

Part 12: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Movies Features Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
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"Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K": Introducing a Teen to the Teen Canon of the 1980s

“What happened to the other guy?” Grace wanted to know.

“What other guy?”

“The one who didn’t become Neo.”

“Oh. You were probably too traumatized to notice this but he had a small part in The Lost Boys.”

“Ew.”

“I think he directs now? Anyway what’s your takeaway?” We’d been struggling, a bit, to get through Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but we’d made it without her actually walking away.

“It was popular, right? At the time?”

“Yeah, they managed to get two sequels out of it, I think.” (Further research determined there was only one sequel.) “I didn’t see them that I remember.” Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had indeed found both commercial success (it grossed four times its 10M budget) and cult-classic status, which has ensured that however dopey and dated it might be it has never totally left the pop culture lexicon. A “sci-fi comedy” that was very light on the “sci” side, the film featured two Angeleno garage band doofuses (doofi?) who travel through time with help from an unusually well-appointed phone booth and Rufus (George Carlin), a dude from the future with a strange vested interest in Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) not flunking out of history. Along the way they discover that it’s worth learning how to actually play your own guitar, along with many other valuable life lessons. When it came out in 1989 I’d found it … well, the kind of movie you 90% laughed at and maybe 10% with.

As it turns out, that hasn’t changed.

“There is one reason why you watch this,” Grace said. “So you and your friends have a few random buzzwords.”

“Like?”

“Like you all say be excellent to each other when someone does something crappy. And in history class you obviously pronounce it ‘So-crates’ and not ‘Socrates.’” Other than that, I just … don’t know.”

“Highs and lows?”

“Highs? Socrates is hilarious and I think it’s awesome when Joan of Arc takes over the aerobics class at the mall. And when Beethoven rules the music store.”

“Okay.”

“Lows? Every single second that contained Napoleon or Genghis Khan. Why was Genghis Khan there? So there could be a crazy Asian character? All the other Historical Figures were white Europeans or white Americans. In fact, why Billy the Kid? They never even say why he’s important. Actually, they barely say why any of them are important so maybe that’s a thing.”

“I’m not sure, but they didn’t seem to feel that it needed to be fleshed out conceptually.”

“I guess you could make a decent drinking game out of it.”

“What?”

“Root beer, clearly, Mom.”

“Okay, so not your favorite.”

“Feeble. But it seems like it was at the time.”

“I think most critics felt that way.”

“I guess,” Grace said, “the difference is whether you’re satirizing stupidity or just capitalizing on it.”


Amy Glynn has been afoot at the Circle K.

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