Something I neglected to mention in my unsolicited review of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure—for a long time, that particular movie was my favorite post-Ghostbusters cinematic property of the 1980s (despite its complete lack of boobs, gremlins, or John Candy). I must have rented it every weekend the first two or three months it was available on VHS. Why my parents didn’t buy me my own copy, I have no idea. They were kind of slow on the uptake sometimes.
I remember completely losing my shit the afternoon I found out a second Bill & Ted was on the way. I was errantly flipping through a stray issue of Time Magazine underneath my parents’ coffee table in the family room when I suddenly spotted an alien photo of Alex Winter and Keanu Reaves.
“Bill & Ted Go To Hell,” the pre-name change caption read, going on to say something to the effect that Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was the stupidest movie to ever yield a sequel. Ouch. My first taste of Northeast elitism. Hey, Time Magazine, I’ve got your Ingmar Bergman right here.
I was all about Bogus Journey in ’91 (even though I didn’t actually see it until January of 1992) and I was determined to dress up as either Bill, Ted, or the film’s Grim Reaper character for Halloween that year. In my sick, delusional mind, a homemade Grim Reaper costume seemed much easier and less stressful than an attempt at either Bill or Ted. I wish I could tell you what I thought was so challenging about a backwards hat and a green flannel shirt. Remember, we’re talking about the same kid who thought the best way to get rid of a stolen copy of Penthouse was to flush it down the guest bathroom toilet.
Anywho, the d.i.y. Reaper outfit. My theory was a black hoodie, some cheap Halloween make-up, and a toy hockey stick wrapped in tin foil would get the job done. Oh, how wrong I was:
This picture just screams, “Beat me with a shovel.” Thank god my mom did a pretty good job on the make-up. Otherwise, I probably would have looked like the poorest (and least Asian) ninja in all of Japan. Actually, I kind of look like one of those Scandinavian Death Metal guys. Burn the churches, praise to Odin!
I was pretty happy with my homemade costume at the time…until Matt Salyer showed up to the Halloween party I hosted that evening in a far superior Grim Reaper costume. He had gone all out, buying a long, flowing robe from Spencer Gifts and fashioning his scythe out of a large piece of driftwood. It also didn’t hurt that Matt was about six feet tall and weighed nearly two hundred pounds. His Grim Reaper was a large and imposing collector of souls. My Grim Reaper was some kind of misshapen hockey troll foraging the wastelands for discarded fast food wrappers and day old coffee.
You will notice in the following photo that a significant portion of my make-up came off before the night was over. This was due to the fact that A) I bought the least expensive clown crap I could find, B) one of my guests thought it would be funny to spray me directly in the face with a shitload of shaving cream before he was even out of his mother’s car, or possibly C) a combination of both. Clearly, I should have picked up whatever greasepaint Ed “The Joker” Charlesworth was using.
From left to right: Suburban Commando Jim Raymond, Jake Hallam as John Shaft (coolest honky at this vanilla-fest), Me, Ed, Matt “Superior Reaper” Salyer, Josh Wyatt in The Most Elaborate Batman Costume Ever Constructed By Someone Outside Hollywood (Josh and I were actually kicked out of a local hardware store a week earlier while he was searching for Bat-materials), the politically-minded Jim Rumpf as Reagan’s Iran Adviser (a costume only my parents understood), and Colin Reinhardt as that notorious comic villain the Clock King.
One of these guys recently got engaged. One of these guys appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” a few years ago.* One of these guys impaled his thumb on a fence while attempting to steal a couple cans of twenty-five cent soda. Two of these guys had a falling out because the one guy made a bunch of 1-900-909-SEXX phone calls from the other guy’s grandparents’ house (awkward!). One of these guys has a blog none of the other guys read (weak sauce).
But I digress. Though certainly not the worst costume in the history of JG2 Halloween – that would probably go to my atrocious Omen-related 2001 garb (for some reason, I thought Damien wore a cape) – the Grim Reaper is definitely up there. I give this one a solid 8 on the Shitty Costume Scale. May God have mercy on my thirteen year old soul.
* – Apparently I was wrong about this—see below in the comments.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Starring: Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, George Carlin
Directed by Stephen Herek
I watched this movie for the first time in about five years the other night. It holds up surprisingly well. You’d think all that dude-speak would be a major crux, but it’s not. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves split Spicoli down the middle and manage to make that patented Hollywood stoner stupidity more endearing than Santa Claus or Mary Lou Retton.
Of course, pot and/or any references to the holy green stuff are completely absent from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It seems like there wasn’t too much weed humor going on in the late eighties. Everybody was too busy doing coke, I guess. At any rate, the lack of overt drug yuks and gratuitous swearing makes this film seem like a fershluggin’ Disney comedy. Two American teenagers travel through time and steal history’s greatest minds to help them pass their final exam? Yeah, I could see a couple kids from High School Musical making the same flick today.
Maybe that’s why they threw in Amy Stock-Poynton as Bill’s hot step-mom Missy. Some of those scenes still make me a little uncomfortable, particularly the one where Mr. Preston throws our heroes out of Bill’s room so he can make the sign of the blue-breasted Nepalese tit willow with Missy. I hope they changed Bill’s sheets afterwards.
You know what else is weird in this movie? The part where Bernie Casey (as Bill and Ted’s history teacher) is asking the duo real softball questions in class the day before their report is due. Seriously, it’s the last ten minutes of class on the day before the final, and you’re asking questions like, “Who was Joan of Arc?” Is that how you get your jollies, Bernie Casey? By humiliating the two poorest students in class with questions you know they can’t answer correctly? Maybe you just don’t have your shit together as a teacher. Based on the other final reports shown in the movie, it doesn’t look like you taught those kids dick. Let them eat fast food? I know fourth graders more perceptive than that. I guess my point is fuck you, Bernie Casey.
I wonder why George Carlin agreed to do Bill & Ted. I mean, obviously it had a funny script and everything came together really well in the end, but there are no other “names” attached and the budget had to be kind of low (they filmed most of it in Arizona). Did Stephen Herek have a lot of heat on him after Critters? Was Carlin hurtin’ for money? If the late hippie comedian ever commented upon/talked at length about his participation in the Bill & Ted movies, someone please direct me to a link or something. I’m too lazy to go on a wild Internet goose chase myself.
I would like to take a moment now to remark upon how amazing the Circle K sequences are in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It sounds crazy, but you can see how Keanu Reeves built a career on his reactions to the arrival of Rufus and Future Bill & Ted. Never before has one shaggy-haired gas station loiterer’s disbelief over meeting his time-traveling alter ego been so palpable. Reeves completely steals those scenes from Alex Winter. That’s okay, though, because Winter is generally better at his craft and kind of acts circles around Keanu throughout the rest of the film.
It’s a little strange watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the post-Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey world. They went so balls-out on the 1993 sequel (evil Bill & Ted robots, d.i.y. Bill & Ted robots made by non-evil Bill & Ted, the Grim Reaper, Station, Pam Grier, the guy from Faith No More, Primus) that the predecessor seems tame by comparison. The original does has enough clever writing and wacky gags to keep it from falling into the same cinematic grave as Rock n’ Roll High School Forever or any of the Meatballs movies, though. It’s also got Abraham Lincoln advising an auditorium of high school kids to “party on.” That’s worth at least three Oscars in my book.
Final Score: Three and a half air guitars supplemented by real guitar playing (out of four).