In my last Cinematic Chiasmus, I demonstrated how the entire Back to the Future Trilogy follows the same pattern backwards and forwards. This time I’ll delve into another classic ‘80s time-travel movie: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Wait. A seemingly brainless comedy about two surfer dudes traveling through time is actually an intelligently crafted piece of rich entertainment? Whoa.
I know how you feel. But like Bill and Ted themselves at the Circle K, I’m here to assure you that you are in for a most excellent adventure as we discover the symmetrical nature of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Let’s start this non-heinous review off right with the film’s chiasmus. Remember that a chiasmus means that all of the events in the first half are repeated in reverse order in the second half, sometimes in ironic ways.
A. Rufus tells us about the future, which was made possible by Bill and Ted
B. Bill and Ted are in Bill’s garage wondering what they need in order to hit the big time
C. A teacher tells Bill and Ted they need to give a really special report about historical figures
D. Missy picks Bill and Ted up from school
E. Ted’s dad asks Ted if he knows where his missing keys are
F. Bill and Ted get kicked out of Bill’s room by Bill’s dad
G. Bill and Ted meet themselves at the Circle K and get some helpful advice about traveling through time
H. Napoleon falls through a time tunnel, emerging in 1988 San Dimas
I. Ted’s dad grounds Ted, putting their plans into jeopardy
J. Bill and Ted visit the Old West where Billy the Kid demands their help
K. They pass themselves off as philosophers with Socrates
L. They meet a couple of “historical babes”
M. They narrowly escape death, and the time machine gets damaged
N. They accidentally visit San Dimas in the distant future
O. Deacon takes Napoleon to an ice cream restaurant
P. Bill and Ted kidnap Sigmund Freud and Beethoven against their wills
Q. Joan of Arc prays in front of an altar
Q. Bill and Ted show up in answer to her prayer
P. They kidnap Genghis Khan and Abraham Lincoln against their wills
O. Deacon ditches Napoleon at a bowling alley
N. Bill and Ted accidentally visit San Dimas in prehistoric times
M. They fix the time machine, saving themselves from being stranded
L. Back at the Circle K, Ted tells himself about the princesses
K. They make up new names for the historical figures when introducing them to Missy
J. Missy demands Bill and Ted clean the house before she’ll help them
I. The historical figures get arrested (Note: I and H take place out of order)
H. Bill and Ted find Napoleon at Waterloo
G. They read a letter their future selves wrote to help them sneak through the police station
F. They break all of the historical figures out of Ted’s dad’s prison
E. Ted gives the keys back to his dad
D. Missy drops Bill, Ted, and their friends off at school
C. Bill and Ted give a phenomenal report with the help of their historical figures
B. They are back in Bill’s garage realizing they need to take guitar lessons
A. Rufus tells Bill and Ted about the harmonious future their music will create
Now I’ll illuminate each of these points even more clearly.
A. Rufus Monologues
The first person we see is Rufus. He explains how great the future is and then says it was almost destroyed by Bill and Ted nearly being split apart. Their music is the core of the future’s advanced civilization.
Rufus is also the last person we see. He tells Bill and Ted about the wonderful effect their music will have on generations to come. He also reassures the audience that the band’s music will get better.
B. Bill and Ted in the Garage
The first time we see Bill and Ted, they’re in Bill’s garage attempting to make a music video. They open the garage door to let out some smoke from a broken amp and then discuss what their band is missing that prevents them from being successful.
The last time we see Bill and Ted, they’re also in Bill’s garage attempting to make another music video. They finally admit that they need guitar lessons. Then their garage door opens, revealing Rufus, who has two more important additions to their band’s success.
C. The Report
A history teacher warns Bill and Ted that if they don’t give a really special report on their assigned historical figures the next day, they will flunk his class.
Bill and Ted wow their history teacher by giving an incredibly special report featuring all of their assigned historical figures in the flesh. They get perfect scores and pass their history class.
D. Missy the Chauffer
Missy drives to Bill and Ted’s school to pick them up. Later, Missy drives Bill, Ted, and all of their historical figures to the school for their presentation.
E. Finding Lost Keys
Ted’s dad is hunting for his keys and asks Ted if he knows where they are. Ted says he has no idea.
In his dad’s jail later, Ted finally gives his dad’s keys back. It turns out Ted took them, thanks to some help from a time machine.
F. Making Their Escape
Bill and Ted are working on their history report when Bill’s mom and dad walk in and kick them out so they can have some alone time.
Later, Bill and Ted need to save their history report by breaking into Ted’s dad’s prison and releasing all of their incarcerated historical figures.
G. Bill and Ted’s Future Selves
Bill and Ted are at their local Circle K when they suddenly get confronted by themselves from the future. Their future selves tell them all about what an excellent adventure they’re about to have and also remind Ted to wind his watch, which he promptly forgets to do.
While Bill and Ted are sneaking through the local prison, they stumble upon a note their future selves left for them. It gives them encouragement about their report and then warns them to duck behind a desk, which they promptly do to avoid being seen by an approaching officer.
H. Finding Napoleon
Napoleon accidentally falls down a time tunnel behind Bill and Ted’s time machine and he winds up in 1988 San Dimas. Bill and Ted assign Ted’s little brother Deacon to watch over Napoleon during his stay.
At a water park called Waterloo, Napoleon gets pushed down a water tunnel where he winds up having the time of his life. Bill and Ted eventually find Napoleon and force him to come with them to help with their report.
I. Getting Arrested
After leaving Napoleon with Deacon, Bill and Ted run into Ted’s dad who promptly places Ted under house arrest. Bill comes up with a plan to distract Ted’s dad long enough for Ted to escape.
While Bill and Ted are hunting for Napoleon, the rest of their historical figures get arrested at a mall. Bill and Ted come up with a plan to distract Ted’s dad long enough to break them out of jail.
J. Helping Billy and Missy
Bill and Ted travel to the Old West and run into Billy the Kid, who demands they help him with a gambling scheme before he’ll do anything for them.
After Bill and Ted return to 1988, they ask Missy for a favor, but she says she won’t help them until they do their chores.
K. In Disguise
Bill and Ted visit Ancient Greece next, where they pretend to be philosophers to convince Socrates to follow them back to the time machine.
Upon their arrival back to 1988, Bill and Ted assign different names to their captured historical figures to distract Missy from asking too many questions about them or their time machine.
L. Historical Babes
While visiting medieval England, Bill and Ted encounter the “historical babes” their future selves told them about.
When they become their future selves, Bill and Ted tell their old selves about the princesses they’re going to meet.
M. The Time Machine Gets Damaged and Fixed
Bill and Ted manage to escape being beheaded. But as they’re leaving medieval England their time machine’s antenna gets damaged by a knight’s mace.
The time machine stops working because of the damage it sustained, so Bill has to fix the antenna to save them from being stranded in the past.
N. Visiting the Distant Future and Past
Bill and Ted accidentally visit San Dimas in 2688 because their time machine is malfunctioning. They give the future society a taste of greatness by coming up with their signature catchphrase, “Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes!”
Later, they accidentally land in San Dimas in 1 Million B.C. because their time machine is once again malfunctioning. They give some cavemen a literal taste of things to come by letting them chew on some of their bubble gum.
O. Deacon and Napoleon
Deacon and his friends take Napoleon out to eat ice cream at a restaurant where Napoleon embarrasses them with his self-centered ways.
Later, Deacon and his friends take Napoleon to a bowling alley where Napoleon once again embarrasses them. They get fed up and ditch him.
P. Kidnapping Historical Figures
Bill and Ted capture Sigmund Freud and Beethoven in quick succession. They soon surprise Genghis Khan and Abraham Lincoln and take them against their will, as well.
Q. Answering Joan of Arc’s Prayer
The turning point of the film comes when Joan of Arc kneels before an altar and begins to pray to God.
Suddenly, her prayer is answered as Bill and Ted’s time machine appears between her and the altar with a bright flash. She is the only one of the historical figures who willingly and consciously goes with them.
A Triumphant Video
It turns out that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure isn’t just a clever satire on how such a seemingly brainless thing as heavy-metal music could lead to enlightenment. It’s also a complexly organized film that can be analyzed like other highly respected films.
Now you can enjoy this most triumphant movie on a whole new level. Party on, dudes.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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