A few weekends ago, I rewatched the Bill and Ted films. I have the first one on DVD, after seeing it multiple times in the theater. I saw it during the initial release, and then it played at the dollar theater across the street from my university campus, so my friends and I went multiple times. I saw the second one when it came out, but I don’t know if I’d seen it all the way through since then. There were parts I remembered clearly, but I didn’t remember the big picture story. I got the DVD of the third one when it came out. I noticed that they were all on Amazon Prime, so since I could see the second one, I decided it was time for a rewatch. (Warning: there are two versions of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey on Amazon, and the one that comes up first in recommendations is a rent/buy, but it’s also in Prime Video if you scroll further.)
Something that struck me upon this viewing is that the first two movies, in particular, are a modern telling of a “fortunate fool” story. This is a fairy tale archetype in which a good-hearted simpleton manages to bumble through life unaware of threats against him and always manages to come out ahead. He may stumble into trouble because he’s a bit of an idiot, but he also gets out of trouble easily due to a combination of good luck and good karma. He collects friends and allies easily and shows kindness. He’s the kind of guy who’ll see a hungry person and give him his own food, and then later realize that he’s hungry and has no food. But he wins in the long run, usually getting the princess.
Which is basically Bill and Ted. They stumble their way through history, collecting their historical figures and managing to win them over. They seldom lose their good natures and don’t really hold a lot of malice, even when people wrong them. They benefit from a lot of good luck and good timing, getting out of trouble in the nick of time. And they end up with princesses.
I have to wonder how intentional this was. Were the writers conscious of this trope and deliberately using it, or did they maybe absorb it subconsciously from fairy tales? I know that the Bill and Ted characters started as a bit the writers did as stand-up comedy and they wrapped a plot around these characters, but I don’t know if there was more to it than just these airhead guys.
Oddly enough, the description of this trope at TV Tropes fits Bill and Ted perfectly, but they aren’t mentioned among the examples.
The third film goes in a different direction. It’s more about dealing with destiny and facing mortality in the Bill and Ted side of the plot. The daughters are doing the running around in time part of the story, but the daughters are geniuses, with extensive in-depth knowledge of music theory and an ability to have conversations about quantum physics.
I love these movies so much (I need to get a DVD copy of the second film). They’re very much happy place viewing, and they never fail to make me grin. There’s something infectious about their zest for life and tight friendship. It’s even more fun when you know that the two actors became friends while filming and are still close all these years later.