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BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. Directed by Stephen Herek; written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon; produced by Scott Kroopf, Michael S. Murphey and Joel Soisson for Orion. Starring Keanu Reeves and Alec Winter. Rated PG.


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"Charming" may seem an odd way to describe this movie. I mean, it's about a couple of airheads who travel through time in a phone booth and greet history's greatest personages with a lot of "How's it goin', dudes?"

To be sure, it's constantly silly and occasionally dumb. But the plot and the characters display a level of cheerful energy and ... well,... charm, that's darned near irresistible.

The heroes named in the title are a couple of Valley boys who would rather fool around with guitars (they don't actually know how to play them) than study. Their lifestyle catches up with them, though, when it comes time to deliver an oral report in history and they have no idea what the course has been about.

Unless they do very well on the report, they'll fail history. And if he fails, Ted (Reeves) will be shipped off to military school in Alaska, thus bringing an excellent friendship and musical (?) collaboration to an end.

Due to some even more advanced silliness that I won't even go into here, Rufus (George Carlin) appears from the 26th century with a timetravel device. The guys can use it to observe history first-hand, see, and learn enough to offset a semester of not studying.

Winter (as Bill) and Reeves are a great comic team. They're goofy enough to earn laughs from even the youngest pre-teens in the audience (and, truth to tell, it's this group that the movie suits the best). But there are hints now and then that, with a little concentration, and the right motivation, they might eventually amount to something.

Reeves has been impressive in dramatic roles (the obscure Permanent Record and River's Edge). But he has an undeniable flair for comedy as well. Winter, who looks like a miniature Christopher Penn, isn't as flashy, but has his shtick of hip confusion down pat.

The basic idea of Bill and Ted, its performances and execution are all so wild and crazy that I'm sure it won't appeal to a lot of moviegoers. But kids will like it (and maybe even learn a little history on the side). And a few parents will be pleasantly surprised as well.

March 8, 1989

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