Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey Review
If you had to pick a role that Keanu Reeves was born to play, what would you choose? Neo in the Matrix films? Jack Traven in Speed? As I see it, the one role that Reeves has played which he was just perfect for was that of Ted “Theodore” Logan in the Bill and Ted movies. A decent guy, but a bit goofy and slow on the uptake; it seems to fit him perfectly. The first one, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, was released in 1989 and became a surprise hit. It told the story of a couple of dumb teenagers, Ted “Theodore” Logan (Reeves) and Bill S Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) whose rock band Wild Stallyns would one day – unbeknown to them - bring peace and harmony to the world. However, they were flunking history at school, which would break up the band and change the future. So a time traveller named Rufus (George Carlin) was sent back from the future with a phone booth that allowed Bill and Ted to travel back through time and learn about historical events first-hand. If it sounds totally ridiculous that’s because it was; that was the whole point of it. An hilariously silly romp featuring historical characters such as “Bob” Genghis Khan, “Dave” Beethoven and Socrates “Johnson”, and it also gave us “Party on dudes!” and “Be excellent to one another”.
Excellent Adventure performed well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel, and in 1991 Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey was released. It would have been very easy to just re-hash the original, with another time travel story. Fortunately, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon came up with a very different story. Bill and Ted are still trying to make it big with Wild Stallyns, now with the medieval babes as their backing band (you have to have seen the first one). Things aren’t going great, but a shot at the Battle of the Bands competition could give them the break they need. Meanwhile, in the far future, evil De Nomolos (writer Ed Solomon’s name backwards if you hadn’t guessed) is planning to overturn the utopian Bill and Ted future by sending back two robot Bill and Teds to “totally kill” the real Bill and Ted and make sure that Wild Stallyns never make it. The “evil us’s” return to present day San Dimas and indeed “totally” kill the real Bill and Ted, leaving them to travel through the afterlife of both Heaven and Hell, before returning to fight for their rightful place as the saviours of humanity.
Originally, and more aptly, entitled Bill and Ted go to Hell, this sequel gives us a very different and yet still very funny new story. The trip to Hell is suitably bizarre – “we were totally lied to by our album covers” - leading them to find personal nightmares of sinister Easter bunnies and toothless old grannies. Best of all is an encounter with the Grim Reaper, wonderfully played by William Sadler. Sadler is just hilarious in the role, and owns every scene that he’s in. The movie’s only real disappointment is their battle with principal bad guy De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), which is fairly brief and uninspiring. Ackland has little more to do than look and talk menacingly, and this he does with little effort required. (He has recently ripped into this role as being one of the “rubbish” movies he was forced to do throughout his career; ignore him, he was either misquoted or he’s a bitter old man).
What really makes this film funny is the cleverness of the story. It would be tempting to compare the Bill and Ted movies with recent “dumb teens” comedies like Dude, Where’s my Car?. In reality, there is no comparison. How many scenes in Dude were as inspired as to parody Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal? Other cleverly written moments include the moment when Bill and Ted watch Captain Kirk running up a rock on some planet in Star Trek, only to later be dragged up the very same rock (in California) by the “Evil Us’s”. The difference is that movies like Dude are dumb films about dumb people, whereas the Bill and Ted’s – and especially Bogus Journey are clever, funny and well-written films - about dumb people.
In the law of diminishing returns of sequels, Bogus Journey acquits itself pretty well. Whilst it doesn’t have quite as many uproariously funny moments as Excellent (the historical figures in the shopping mall scene always has me crying with laughter no matter how many times I see it) it is still very funny, has lots of clever jokes, and is pleasingly not just a re-hash of the first. And in how many films are you likely to hear the phrase “I’ve got a full-on robot chubby” said with a straight face?
According to IMDB, this film was released theatrically in 2.35:1 format. This (and the region 1 version) are in 1.85:1 format. As no scene looks visibly cropped at the sides I will have to assume that this is an error in the IMDB records. The picture we do have is good quality, with decent colour depth and minimal print damage (given that this is over ten years old). A couple of scenes – notably in the Heaven sequence – look very poor quality, but otherwise this is a more than acceptable transfer.
Originally produced in analogue Dolby SR (Spectral Recording), the soundtrack here has been remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1. Generally this is a good track, with plenty of rear channel action when required. In particular, the echoey sound of the dead Bill and Ted comes over very well, but to be critical, at other times it does sound a little harsh. Overall though, this is a decent track.
Although the film works very well as it stands, the original cut was quite different to this released version. The ending was different, and a number of scenes were cut out. Alas, we get none of this here, nor even a commentary to explain any of it. What we do get is just the theatrical trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 stereo sound. The presence of the trailer is actually somewhat annoying, as it gives us a glimpse of material that we don’t see here, featuring one of the scenes deleted from the film.
(Don’t expect that shopping for the region 1 version of this film will be much better; its only extra feature is a brief six-minute featurette).
With barely any extras on the video side, it will come as absolutely no surprise that there are no ROM features available.
A pleasingly different sequel to the original Excellent Adventure, but still very funny. The disc is technically OK, but sadly lacking in features. Will we ever see those deleted scenes? At this rate it looks unlikely.
I can recommend the film with ease, unfortunately the disc has less going for it. Still, if you shop around you can pick it up fairly cheaply, so even in a bare-bones form it is worth getting hold of.