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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // PG // May 15, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted May 8, 2018 | E-mail the Author

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) is a certified comedy classic -- or at the very least, a clever slice of entertainment dressed up as a dim-witted stoner flick. It's here that we first meet Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves), tour their hometown of San Dimas, California, and learn about their nigh-unreachable dreams of super-stardom as rock gods. Aside from their apparent lack of musical talent, there's another roadblock in their path: it's called "history class", and they're both in danger of flunking it. To make matters worse, Ted's dad has threatened to send him to military school if the grades don't come up, so they've got to hit the books or else. Their adventures on the road of education take a detour when they meet Rufus (George Carlin), a "future dude" who's been sent back to help them succeed in life. Word has it that their music, which has yet to be written, will change the world.

Rufus serves as Bill & Ted's tour guide through time, leading them on a series of historical stops to learn more about the subject, pick up a few "souvenirs" for their final project, and hopefully not get killed in the process. Said souvenirs include at least a half-dozen noted historical figures including Napoleon Bonaparte (Terry Camilleri), Socrates (Tony Steedman), Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron), Ludwig van Beethoven (Clifford David) ...and even "Noah's mom", Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin). Each short episode, when combined with the bookending romp in and around modern-day San Dimas, gives the film a very light and entertaining rhythm: like its lovably lunkheaded central characters, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure never sticks with a subject for very long.

It's not even close to believable and often goes for cheap laughs, but that's undoubtedly part of Bill and Ted's enduring charm. The film's premise is played to absolute perfection in nearly every department, from the creative history-hopping concept to the terrific leading performances by Winter and Reeves, who play off each other as well as almost any other big-screen comedy duo. Carlin also turns in a memorable performance, adding a much-needed blend of charisma, humor, and yes, even wisdom to the role of Rufus, which isn't surprising if you've seen any of the late comic's blistering stand-up routines. All told, it's a lightweight 89-minute adventure that feels like just a bit more than the sum of its parts, and one that's smart enough not to wear out its welcome before the credits roll.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was followed by the 1991 sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (which I enjoy a bit more than most folks), and both have been frequently paired together in DVD collections -- mostly notably, MGM's Most Excellent Collection DVD set and Shout Factory's Most Excellent Collection Blu-ray set, released more than a decade apart and obviously very different packages. Of course, most die-hard fans already own the Shout Factory set...but if you're one of those folks who only like the first movie, Shout's new Limited Edition Steelbook edition of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure might be right up your alley. You'll be missing out on a few extras...but if you're trying to save a few bucks and/or like Steelbooks, this might be a good trade-off. For those who already own the Most Excellent Collection Blu-ray, though, this one's pretty much an impossible sell to all but the most rabid packaging junkies.

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure appears identical to the one on Shout Factory's Most Excellent Collection (aside from a possible bit-rate variance, which is presumably negligible). The film's low-budget visuals look good here, displaying a period-specific palette with good color saturation and accurate skin tones. There's a solid amount of depth and texture overall, although sharpness can definitely vary from scene to scene. Overall, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure has no shortage of memorable visuals, and Shout's Blu-ray should satisfy long-time disciples of the film who haven't seen it in a few years. In any case, this obviously offers a non-heinous upgrade from MGM's respectable but entirely dated 2001 DVD, although it's superiority to MGM's existing Blu-ray is still up in the air (see the link to Mike Zupan's "Excellent Collection" review for more on that).


DISCLAIMER: The promotional stills and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the title under review.

The default English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, for the most part, sounds great; it'll be familiar to owners of MGM's Special Edition DVD, but the courtesy bump to lossless definitely adds a good amount of depth and clarity to the proceedings. Although I'm certain the film's original mix is 2.0 stereo (or possibly even 2.0 surround), this 5.1 remix has been the home video standard since the DVD era; in any case, the added presence created by panning effects seems to fit in with the film's loose, energetic atmosphere naturally. Overall, it's a highly enjoyable presentation with only the slightest moments of source material limitations; dialogue, music, and effects are typically balanced quite well and rarely fight for attention, occasionally venturing into the rear channels and dipping into subwoofer range. Optional English subtitles are included during the main feature only, and there are no foreign dubs like on the MGM discs.

..

The interface is presented in Shout's typical no-frills style featuring smooth, simple navigation and the bare minimum of pre-menu distractions. Separate options are provided for chapter selection, subtitle/commentary setup, and bonus features. This one-disc release arrives in a Limited Edition Steelbook case with surprisingly stark artwork that nonetheless looks very cool.

Although everything here is from the Most Excellent Collection, I'll give Shout Factory credit for not just making this a "Disc 1" release: in addition to both Audio Commentaries (one with Alex Winter and producer Scott Kroopf, another with writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon) and the Theatrical Trailer, we also get the 61-minute behind-the-scenes documentary "Time Flies When You're Having Fun: A Look Back At A Most Excellent Adventure" from that release's bonus disc. There's still a lot missing, but it's a nice little touch that will make this Steelbook more attractive for those who don't want both films. (I'd still just spring for the whole collection, though.)

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure is still great fun -- it's a lightweight but durable little romp through time that sits right between clever sci-fi and self-aware stoner comedy. Even if you're not excited about the recently kind-confirmed third film or don't care for Bogus Journey, this original adventure has held up perfectly well and is more than capable of drawing in new viewers of all ages. Though Shout Factory already hit a bull's-eye with their Most Excellent Collection, this new Limited Edition Steelbook is aimed at packaging junkies or those who don't need the second film: it pairs a solid A/V presentation with a few well-meaning extras, including a great documentary from the Most Excellent Collection's bonus disc. Recommended for sure, but obviously skippable if you already own the set.


Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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