Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey Retrospective Review

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With the release of Bill & Ted Face the Music (pre-order here), we thought it best to go back and take a look at the previous two Bill & Ted movies to see if they still hold up. Let’s do this!

Rating:

7/10

Cast:

Keanu Reeves … Ted Theodore Logan
Alex Winter … Bill S. Preston Esquire
George Carlin … Rufus
Terry Camilleri … Napoleon
Dan Shor … Billy the Kid
Tony Steedman … Socrates
Rod Loomis … Freud
Al Leong … Genghis Khan
Jane Wiedlin … Joan of Arc
Robert V. Barron … Abraham Lincoln

Written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
Directed by Stephen Herek

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure Review

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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is one of those flicks from a bygone era that viewers can appreciate as a carefree time-travel comedy romp that works in spite of its modest budget and asinine stoner-ish plot.

The story concerns Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), two dimwitted high school pals who go on an adventure through time in order to pass their history exam. Bill and Ted are essential to the future, you see, since they’ll, at some point in their lives, write a musical ballad that will provide guidance for generations to come. Failing the history exam would send Ted to military school, break up the Wild Stallions band, and destroy the future — or so they say.

As such, Rufus (George Carlin) appears with a time travel device (built out of a phone booth, no less) and sends our two heroes on a quest to learn as much about history as possible. This setup gives the production team the daunting task of creating multiple set pieces in numerous time periods as Bill and Ted visit Austria, the Old West, Greece and other locales with the likes of Socrates, Billy the Kid, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig van Beethoven, Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc in tow.

Indeed, the early time travel bits are actually quite clever and lend the film a fish-out-of-water innocence the latter half, set mainly in present-day 1988, can’t quite replicate. There are wild hijinks featuring Napoleon learning (and failing) the simple art of bowling; and a fun scene in which Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Beethoven explore a shopping mall and entertain onlookers with their notable talents. The film also enjoys messing around with its time travel concept. At one point, Bill and Ted must break into a police station and make mental notes to travel back in time at some point in the future to leave behind objects for their use at that exact moment. So, when Ted requires some keys, for example, he need only plan to return to that location earlier via time travel and leave the keys in the location of his choice for them to appear in the present. Get it?

The biggest detriment to Bill and Ted is its minimal budget, which can’t quite match the wild ambitions of the filmmakers who clearly want to do more with the material — and get their wish with part two. As such, Excellent Adventure’s FX is rather bland and the big locales look more like movie sets than actual locations.

Even so, the stars of the film, namely Winter and Reeves, shine as a pair of lovable dimwits who are much too innocent to mock — upon seeing Rufus emerge from a time-traveling phone booth that just dropped out of the sky, Ted asks, “Do you know when the Mongols ruled China?” Bill and Ted are slow to piece ideas together, but they are also good guys who are genuinely excellent to each other and the people they run into. They don’t smoke, do drugs, drink, or curse (often), which makes their naïveté all the more genuine and fun.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure makes for light-hearted entertainment that can be enjoyed by all audiences, even if it never quite reaches the heights it sets out to achieve.


Rating:

8/10

Cast:

Keanu Reeves … Ted
Alex Winter … Bill / Granny Preston
William Sadler … Grim Reaper
Joss Ackland … De Nomolos
Pam Grier … Ms. Wardroe
George Carlin … Rufus

Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Peter Hewitt

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey Review

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Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is the rare sequel that actually surpasses the original. Thanks mostly to a larger budget, which allows for a more polished product, and a decidedly bat-shit crazy tone, Bill and Ted’s second hurrah through the strands of time delivers a balanced blend of clever humor and stupidity that will leave even the most stone-hearted viewer in stitches.

Bogus Journey follows our heroes as they travel (quite literally) to Hell and back in an attempt to bring down the villainous De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), who wants to rid the future world of these two guitar-playing idiots.

That’s it. That’s the plot. And yet, director Peter Hewitt and writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon use that basic outline as an excuse to go absolutely wild with the film’s various set pieces. Make no mistake: Bogus Journey is about as weird a movie as you’ll ever find, but the level of ambition and creativity on display truly astonishes.

At one point, Bill and Ted are killed by two evil versions of themselves and come face-to-face with Death, whom, in a clever twist on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, they must beat in a series of games in order to return to the land of the living. Naturally, these games include Battleship, Clue, and Twister; and, naturally, Death can’t quite discern the intricacies of the board game or the shame of defeat — “Three out of four!” It’s in these scenes that the film really clicks; and credit to William Sadler for his hilarious depiction of such an outlandish character. His comic timing, comprised mostly of subtle looks and pitch-perfect line deliveries — “I’ll see you soon!” — is perfection; and the jokes, including a bit where he wanders around Heaven in a “disguise” good enough to fool God’s assistants, are pulled off with something resembling artistic brilliance.

Indeed, here is a film jam-packed with clever dumb humor — if that makes any sense.

“If we die,” Bill says to Ted while strolling through the underworld, “you can have my Megadeath collection.”

“But Bill,” Ted replies, “we’re already dead.”

“Oh,” Bill exclaims, “well, then I guess they’re yours then.”

Like the original Excellent Adventure, the sheer fact that Bogus Journey actually works is commendable in and of itself. That it manages to enhance the original despite toeing the fine line between entertaining 80s stoner comedy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is a damned miracle.

Part of its success lies in the casting of Winter and Reeves, who once again embody Bill and Ted with genuine innocence. These are two guys who love life, love their “babes” and aren’t so much interested in material things as they are in simply going through life being excellent to everyone they meet.

Even their evil counterparts are likable, especially when they’re removing and dunking their heads in wastebaskets.

Of course, all of the nonsense does grow a tad tedious by the third act (like the original), especially with the appearance of Station, a weird alien thing that looks like something crafted by the same psychos behind the nightmare known as Labyrinth. I wasn’t a fan.

And yet, the rest of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey delights thanks to a clever script, a pair of charismatic leads, and a wild adventure that can only be described as bonkers. Enjoy the madness — they really don’t make them like this anymore.