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Face-Off: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure vs. Wayne's World

Nice to see you again, fans of the cinema! This is the Face-Off, where two movies enter and both movies leave, but one leaves in a slightly better light. Yes, here we take two competitors and compare their key elements and see who comes out the champion. It's a fierce competition that results in blood, tears, and online arguments, but the more brutal the battle, the sweeter the victory.

This week is Halloween, but instead of doing a scary movie comparison we're taking things down a more excellent path. In celebration of the movie BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, we will be taking a look at movies about two pairs of about lovable, goofy, die-hard rock and roll fans - BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and WAYNE'S WORLD.  These two movies about two pairs of, simple-minded, rock-loving and nothing short of eternally endearing buddies have stood the test of time and become classics of that era of comedy. The former came out at the end of the 80s but managed to become a staple of the decade, launching the two stars into the public eye (Keanu Reeves becoming one the biggest movie stars ever). The latter capitalized on the popularity of both its stars, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, and the Saturday Night Live sketches that won over the world, becoming wildly successful at the box office, inadvertently causing a poor parade of other SNL-sketch-based films. Oh well, at least this movie rocks.

All four of these characters love to wail and have a good time, but which of their movies throws the most rockin', most hysterical party? Scroll on down to find out!

 

The Ensemble

Keanu Reeves as Ted Theodore Logan
Alex Winter as Bill S. Preston Esq.
George Carlin as Rufus
Diane Franklin as Princess Joanna
Kimberly LaBelle as Princess Elizabeth
Terry Camilleri as Napoleon
Dan Shor as Billy the Kid
Tony Steedman as Socrates
Rod Loomis as Sigmund Freud
Al Leong as Genghis Khan
Jane Wiedlin as Joan of Arc
Robert V. Barron as Abraham Lincoln
Clifford Davis as Beethoven

Mike Myers as Wayne Campbell
Dana Carvey as Garth Algar
Tia Carrere as Cassandra Wong
Rob Lowe as Benjamin Oliver
Lara Flynn Boyle as Stacy
Brian Doyle-Murray as Noah Vanderhoff
Kurt Fuller as Russell Finley

With Appearances By:

Meat Loaf as Tiny
Chris Farley as Well-Informed Security Guard
Alice Cooper as Himself
and Ed O'Neill as Glen

Direction

Stephen Herek broke onto the scene with the horror cult classic CRITTERS, so following it up with a movie like BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE seems very appropriate. He embraces everything that's silly and absurd about the premise and does nothing more than try to deliver a breezy, light, ultra-giggly buddy comedy about two dudes travelling through time and space so they can finish their history report. As a director, you don't need to do anything more than make that movie as entertaining as possible, and Herek is up to the task. There a moments so unabashedly 80s and joyous to watch, like one of the final scenes at the mall, wherein all the historical figures are running amok like animals. It's so strange and chaotic that it hurts my head to think about, but Herek takes to it with such gusto, throwing as much as he can at the screen. This movie operates on that level of high strangeness for much of the movie, and Herek deserves a lot of credit for keeping the energy levels so high. 

Penelope Spheeris didn't direct much comedy before doing WAYNE'S WORLD, other than directing some SNL episodes and working on the show ROSEANNE. However, she did direct some documentaires about the LA punk and metal scenes (THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIAZATION I & II and then III in 1998), which gave her come clout when it came to handling the music elements of the the movie and being familiar with the world Wayne and Garth live in. Keeping a finger on that pulse, as well as letting the famed duo stay center stage, are what Spheeris does best in this movie and, like Herek, embraces the general oddness of the premise and the characters to create something that feels unique. 

Script

Okay, an Oscar worthy script this is not. In fact, beyond the humor and bodacious dialouge of the two leads the script from Chris Matheson and Ed Soloman really isn't very good. There's grand leaps of logic that you really have to turn your brain off to enjoy, and the characterizations of the historical figures is basically whittled down to pantimime only. However, almost zero of that matters when you watch the actual movie. The movie is about Bill & Ted having to ace their history report, and in order to do so they have to round up famous figures from the past. That's it, and the script takes whatever steps it has to, no matter how bananas and bonkers, to get there. The creation of Bill and Ted is what's special about this piece of writing, two characters so empty-headed yet so unbelivabliy endearing you would happily follow them to the ends of time and space.

Much like BILL & TED, WAYNE'S WORLD's script from Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner relied a lot on the simplicity and lovability of the two leads. Where it succeeds over B&T is that beyond that there is a pop-culture-savvy, meta humor vibe to it that attempts to lampoon and satirize. There's a lot going on in this script of fourth wall breaking, and self-referencing, and an ending that tries to mock all movie endings (which works more as a throwaway gag than a real ending, but whatever). The writing sometimes struggles to make a cohesive movie out of the series of SNL sketches it was based on, feeling more like a series of small, funny moments with a plot peppered in, but it does hit some solid plot points nonetheless. Story wise it makes it not all that dissimilar to B&T, but the characters are more well-drawn, and the story finds enough to do with them that doesn't waste their development. Also like with B&T, what you come for are the two leads, and the script offers plenty of both Wayne and Garth, giving them distinct personalities that reinforce their standing as one of the greatest duos in comedy history. 

Rockin' Bits & Lines

Meet the Wyld Stallyns
History Class
Sending Rufus Back

Ted: "Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K."

Ted: "OK wait. If you guys are really us, what number are we thinking of?"
Other Bill/Ted: "69, dudes!"
Bill/Ted: "Whoa."

Napoleon Comes Along
Going Back in Time

Ted: "Whoa. He didn't even card us, dude."
Bill: "Yeah, we have to remember this place."

Bill: "Dude, you gotta have a poker face, like me...Whoa, three aces!"

The Old West Brawl??????

Bill: "Yeah, all we need is one more speaker from medieval."
Billy the Kid: "Excellent."
Bill: "Billy, you are dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease."

Socrates/Dust in the Wind
Medieval Times

Bill: "You killed Ted, you medieval dickweed!"

Bill: "Whoa. Those must be the princesses you told yourself about at the Circle-K. We gotta go. It's a history report, not a babe report."
Ted: "But, Bill, those are historical babes."

Evil Duke: "Put them in the iron maiden."
Ted: "Iron Maiden?"
Bill/Ted: "Excellent!"

Ted: "Bill?"
Bill: "What?"
Ted: "I believe our adventure through time has taken a most serious turn."

Bagging Historical Figures
Napoleon Goes Bowling
Historical Chores
Waterloop
Mall Mayhem

Socrates: "Geek!"
Freud: "What is a geek?"

A Most Excellent Report

Abraham Lincoln: "Fourscore and...seven minutes ago... we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill... and Ted. These two great gentlemen are dedicated to a proposition which was true in my time, just as it's true today. Be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!"

A Final Gift From Rufus

Rufus: "They do get better."

Any time they say "Excellent," or "Party On."

Any time they do their "Guitar Riff" 

Wayne’s World
Bohemian Rhapsody!!
Stan Mikita’s

Glen: "I'd never done a crazy thing in my life before that night. Why is it that if a man kills another man in battle, it's called heroic, yet if he kills a man in the heat of passion, it's called murder?"

Garth: "Uh oh. Don't look. Stacy."
Wayne: "Where? Oh, God, I made eye contact."
Garth: "Psycho hose beast."

Rock Goddess Cassandra

Garth: "Hey, are you done yet? I'm getting tired of holding it."
Wayne: "Yeah, that's what she said."

Grey Poupon

Wayne: [To fancy man in nearby car] "Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?"

New Show

Russell: "It will be Terry's job to give the actors their hand cue."
Wayne: "Excuse me, Russel, but I believe I requested the hand job..."

Game On!
Garth the Mad the Scientist
The Guitar
Corporate Sponsor

Wayne: "I once thought I had mono for an entire year. It turned out I was just really bored."

Garth: Drum Master

Guy: "You are like... amazing, dude."
Garth: "Thanks. I like to play."

Wayne: "No Stairway. Denied!"

Davy: "Know what I'd like to do?"
Glen: "Yeah I know what you'd like to do. You'd like to find the guy who did it, rip his still beating heart out of his chest and hold it in front of his face so he can see how black it is before he dies."

Garth: "Uhm, Wayne? What do you do if every time you see this one incredible woman, you think you're gonna hurl?"
Wayne: "I say hurl. If you blow chunks and she comes back, she's yours. But if you spew and she bolts, then it was never meant to be."

Garth’s Fantasy
Garth's Tour Through the Fancy Apartment

Garth: "Daily reminder, Thursday: Purchase feeble public access cable show and exploit it." Gee, I feel sorry for whoever that is."

Benjamin: "Hey, who wants Chinese take-out? I know a great place!"
Wayne: "I'll have the 'cream of sum yung guy'."

Laverne and Shirley Recall
Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper's History Lesson

Wayne Campbell/Garth Algar: [to Alice Cooper] "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"
Garth: "We're scum!"
Wayne: "We suck!"

Show Taping

Wayne: "All I have to say about that is "a-sphincter-says-what".
Noah: "What?"
Wayne: "Exactly."

Wayne and Garth Split Ways
Wayne’s Confession of Love/Oscar Clip

Wayne: "Am I supposed to be a man? Am I supposed to say, 'It's OK, I don't mind, I don't mind?' Well, I mind! I mind big time! And you know what the worst part is? I NEVER LEARNED TO READ."

Robert Patrick as the T-1000!!
Stealing Satellite Gear

Garth: "Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick."

Final Performance
The Endings!

Any time they say "Excellent," "Party On," "Schwing" or any other catchphrase

The Duo

A movie called BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE doesn't work unless the two title characters work, and Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are fucking *chef's kiss* together. They are so perfectly, hilariously dumb that they're essentially the embodiement of a pure, infectious giggle. If the movie works so well as a fluffy piece of comedy it's thanks to the two leads, and the natural, magical chemsitry of Winters of Reeves. It's like watching a ballet of endearing stupidity and charm with the occasional burst of wit. Any time anyone sees a die-hard rock n' roll fan, or says "dude" a lot with that California ease, Bill & Ted come to mind, which just goes to show you how well they fit into their generation. Now all we need is to see how they grew up, so how's about they get that third movie going, right?

Myers had been doing his Wayne Campbell character for a few years on Canadian TV shows before bringing it over to SNL when he was hired in 1988. Once there he hooked up with Carvey, one of the top actors on the show, and thus Wayne's World was born in the late-88/early-89 season of SNL. Much like Bill & Ted (too much so, as some people may say), these two characters worked their way into the zeitgeist in a major way, and the two actors were able to expand on their characters in a big way with the movie. Carvey and Myers did brilliant jobs tailoring these two iconic characters they'd been working on for years to the big screen, making them even more bizarre, but no less charming, than they ever were. Their personalities make the movie, and even with Bill & Ted in the mix, it's hard to find a more classic comedy duo to come out of the last few decades than Wayne and Garth. 

The Absurdity

Upon rewatching this movie I always forget how gleefully, constantly weird this movie is. From the opening credits scene set in the future, with the time machine coming into place and Rufus talking about the Excellent Ones, this movie takes carefree 80s fun and makes it as weird as it can be without alienating the core audience. Take these two bumbling, lovable characters and make them go throughout time as they bring back historical figures - almost all of them as equally goofy as the leads - so they can get an A+ on their history report, therefore keeping them on track to change the course of history and you have a movie that doesn't work if it's not totally bonkers. This is acheived in large part thanks to the leads, as they bounce around time with a carefree ease and a "Woah" reaction to everything. You can watch this movie stoned and giggle your ass off, or you can watch it 100% sober and still giggle your ass off. That's how accesibly strange and delightful this movie is, to the point where you can argue it's an artform all its own. 

The characters at the front of this movie are certainly absurd with a dumb, goofy sense of humor, but they're more fleshed out characters than Bill & Ted, and exist in a more grounded scenario. Sure, things get broken up very well with odd asides and grand steps into broadly satirical gags, but those are just some comedic elements laced throuought the movie. Is it sometimes strange and over-the-top? Of course, but it doesn't take things to that whacky next level as its competition, which is understandable. Doing something like BILL & TED wouldn't work with Wayne and Garth, but it also means there's a level of entertainment that WW just can't live up to in comparison. 

The Hilarity

B&T is funny in the most uncomplicated of ways. It's silly and dumb and deserves to be laughed at while eating a sack of Cheetos and chugging cans of Mountain Dew. Such humor relies heavily on the leading men, but also on the audiences' willingness to shut off their brains completely and giggle their asses off while watching Genghis Khan destroy a sporting goods store with an 80s track in the background. I found myself laughing most at the dialouge for Bill and Ted, as I'm sure most audiences do, letting out an unrestrained chuckle everytime they said "Excellent," and did their "Guitar Riff" move, even if it meant being subjected to the bad kind of iron maiden. If you need a laugh and almost nothing else, this is one of the easiest movies to pop on and laugh with. 

WW requires just as much intellecutal investment as B&T, but if it defeats its competition its because writer Myers and the Turners get just as much humor as they can out of virtually everyone in the cast and out of every scenario on a more hysterical level. Myers and Carvey are comic geniuses who can make anything funny (well, except love gurus and masters of disguises), while there's plenty of laughs to be had thanks to Ed O'Neill as the crazy diner owner and a brilliant appearance by Alice Cooper. There's just so much more to laugh at in this movie than in B&T, and as dumb as it can be, it has moments of genuine, intelligent hilarity (corporate sponsorship, anyone?). 

Rock n' Roll Spirit

These two metal heads want nothing more than to start their band, and that desire is what fuels the whole movie. The "metal dude" persona is Bill & Ted most famously exude, but aside from some background music there's not a lot of rocking out that goes on in the movie. The time travel stuff doesn't really lend itself to inserting much modern music, so the characters have to keep that spirit alive all on their own. They do a great job of it, and the fact they are so bad at playing their own music is part of their charm. 

Having the budget and clout means WW was able to get some big names in this movie, like appearances by Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper. But even without them music is a very big part of this movie, whether it be because Cassandra knows how to wail, or because the characters find themselves in rock clubs now and again. But even if there weren't as much live music we still have scenes where the characters show their love for rock and roll, like the eternally classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene, or when Garth has a fantasy of him seducing his lady love with Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady." 

Awards, Praise & Money
Wayne's World

BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (and even the sequel, BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY) will be fondly remembered as a comedy classic of the era, thanks in large part to the terrific duo and the movie's unabashedly silly approach. But WAYNE'S WORLD is a stronger movie, one that loses none of the charms of its leads by expanding on their personalities and giving the movie a distinct feel from the sketches it's based on. The result is an endlessly funny and sometimes strange comedy starring two of the comedians of the era. Those characters are as perfect as they come and there's more than a few classic lines and scenes that make this movie as timeless as it is hilarious. We're not worthy, Wayne and Garth. 

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