I recently re-watched Wayne’s World and it brought back a lot of fun memories. It got me thinking about another cinematic pair of rockers: Bill and Ted.
I was tempted to compare the two duos. After all, Bill and Ted and Wayne and Garth have a lot in common:
- They are would-be rockers who film themselves in their parents’ garage/basement.
- One has black hair and the other has blond hair.
- They share a similar vernacular, including such phrases as, “Party on,” “Excellent,” No way,” and “Bogus.”
- They date girls who are way out of their league (and/or century).
- They each had two movies that end in chase scenes and some type of performance at the end.
- In both duos, one actor went on to have a successful acting career (Keanu Reeves/Mike Myers) while the other fell into relative obscurity (Alex Winters/Dana Carvey).
But there is something about the very nature of these films that clearly differentiates them: the Bill and Ted movies are satires while Wayne’s World and its sequel are parodies.
Some might think that because of the shallow and stupid nature of the main characters, these films are completely silly and not worthy of any type of critical analysis. I beg to differ. I’ve already shown how Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure is an example of cinematic chiasmus. That, by itself, shows that there is at least something going on in this film just below surface.
Let’s dig deeper and see what we find about these films.
Bill and Ted’s Satire
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey are satires of the Chosen One story. Dune, Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda, and The Matrix are just a handful of examples of films that follow the Chosen One story structure: A young man discovers he inherently possesses incredible powers and sets forth on a quest to make the world a better place.
The Bill and Ted movies play with this concept to an absurd (and awesome) degree. The rock ‘n roll music of a couple of dimwitted yet likable young men will eventually usher in an era of universal peace and harmony throughout the cosmos. That is hilarious. It’s not some mystical force or divine power that will save humanity, but two electric guitars.
Instead of having some kind of ancient prophecy that says they will pass their class, Bill and Ted get visited by themselves from a few hours into the future. They become their own prophets, telling themselves what they’re about to do. That is just perfect. There’s no book where their destinies are written. They get to write their own destiny.
Of course, none of this would be possible if they hadn’t already succeeded so that the future society could build the time machine to allow them to pass their History class. But these movies handle paradoxes in very clever ways. Like the fact that Ted’s dad has been missing his keys for several days because it was Ted himself who stole them by going back in time and doing that later. And then the climax of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey has a few more tricks up its sleeve with how the heroes defeat the villain and get good enough to change the world with their music in just a few seconds.
I also love the tie-in to a classic Star Trek moment. At one point, Bill and Ted are watching an episode from the original series where Kirk fights a lizard-like alien on a desert planet. And immediately after that, they get put into a life-and-death situation of their own at the exact same spot where that episode of Star Trek was filmed. That comparison is brilliant because it suggests that Bill and Ted will somehow be scrappy enough to get out of that predicament and defeat their enemies while also suggesting that these two are about to “go where no man has gone before.” Indeed, they wind up doing both, but not in the way we expect. They suffer an undignified death and wander through the afterlife where they find people to help them fight their battles for them. So they do eventually triumph, like Kirk, but it’s in a completely unexpected and funny way.
Wayne’s World’s Parody
Wayne’s World and its sequel are parodies of parodies. I mean that not only are these films poking fun at other films, such as poorly dubbed kung-fu movies and silly romantic comedies, but they are also mocking the assumptions that films like those make. For example, Wayne and Garth frequently break the fourth wall to comment on situations that seem particularly contrived. Like when they mention how convenient it is that they just happen to talk to a security guard who knows detailed information about the location of a businessman, which becomes vitally important later.
The random cameo by Robert Patrick as the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day is hilarious because it’s so unexpected. But the most amazing cameo comes in Wayne’s World 2. Not everything works as smoothly in that sequel, but it does have one absolutely brilliant scene. When Wayne is trying to find his girlfriend and stop her from marrying the wrong man, he desperately asks a mechanic for directions. And this is what happens:
Charlton Heston, ladies and gentlemen! The man imbues beauty and drama into every syllable he utters. They could have just surprised us with another unexpected cameo, but to recast the part in the middle of the scene adds a layer of hilarity that is nothing short of inspired. Heston has done many other memorable cameos, such as in True Lies and Hamlet (1996). But Wayne’s World 2 is probably my favorite.
It’s Party Time
Bill and Ted are basically messiahs. They even offer their own version of Jesus’ Golden Rule in the form of, “Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!” But they have fun with the whole concept of a savior. Their music is going to profoundly change humanity for the better… if they can only survive high school and attacks by killer robots from the future.
Wayne and Garth are not saviors, but they are content to point out plot holes and ridiculous aspects of films that we are expected to just ignore or accept.
So while Bill and Ted and Wayne and Garth seem to be completely in harmony with each other, they’re really playing completely different tunes. Party on, my friends.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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