Seeing as how today, September 15, 2020, is the 29th anniversary of the legendary Wyld Stallyns concert that brought about world peace, it’s the perfect time to review Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
This movie is absolutely bonkers, in a nearly hallucinatory way. But that’s okay, because it’s just as full of humor and heart as its precessor. The same creative team behind the first movie is here–writers Chris Matheson (son of sci-fi legend Richard Matheson!) and Ed Solomon, and principal actors Alex Winter (BIll S. Preston, Esq.) and Keanu Reeves (Ted “Theodore” Logan), but director Stephen Herek is out and Pete Hewitt is in. This give the movie the same feel as the first, but with a different coat of paint, as it were. It’s like listening to two different bands play the same songwriter’s music, if that makes sense.
Anyway, as Brian Niemeier pointed out in his recent review of Bogus Journey, sequels tend to take two forms: You either tell the first story over again, or you take a risk. Bogus Journey does the latter. You see, instead of having to time-travel, our titular heroes have to travel through the afterlife, both the good parts and the bad. You see, evil robot versions of them from the future murder them in a bid to keep Wyld Stallyns from playing the concert . . . the one destined to change the world for the better and pave the way for the most triumphant future utopia we caught glimpses of in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and at the beginning of this one. The robots were created and sent back by the evil Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), who wants to impose his own fascistic vision on the society of the year 2691. Luckily, Bill and Ted’s mentor Rufus (George Carlin) is able to hitch a ride with Evil Bill and Ted through the circuits of time.
Evil Bill and Evil Ted proceed to ruin our heroes’ relationships with the princesses Elizabeth (Annette Azcuy) and Joanna (Sarah Trigger) whom they have just proposed to, manage to off the duo by chucking them off a cliff in the desert, and then prepare to give De Nomolos’s speech that night at the Battle of the Bands where Wyld Stallyns were set to usher in an era of world peace. The plan is for De Nomolos’s words to guide society towards worshipping him instead.
Bill and Ted must then contend with the Grim Reaper (William Sadler), travel through Hell in order to get to Heaven, beat the evil versions of themselves, thwart De Nomolos’s evil plans, rescue the princesses, and give the concert of a lifetime.
This movie is nuts, and I mean that in the best way possible. The very premise might be a comedy version of The Terminator franchise, and the idea that heavy metal music will change the world for the better is utterly preposterous but the execution is so good and all of the actors commit to the premise that you find yourself once again getting sucked into the world of Bill and Ted and rooting for these two simple-minded, yet brave and incredibly good-hearted goofballs.
I don’t know where to begin with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. like I said in my review of the first movie, they turn even the stupidest lines hilarious. The scene where they are falling down a deep, dark hole after getting banished to Hell by Missy–who divorced Bill’s dad and now married Ted’s dad–is a riot. Hell itself is appropriately freaky, even though it looks nothing like Bill and Ted’s heavy metal album covers. Keeping with the “dumb metalhead” theme, they attract Satan’s attention by making the sign of the devil, and ask if they can leave. The devil tells them they’ll leave all right. “Thanks!” sayd BIll. “You know, you’ve got a pretty bad rep up there!” Of course, the devil deceives them, sending them to their own personal hell including Colonel Oats, Granny S. Preston Esq., and an evil Easter bunny. My favorite line is this:
Bill: “Hell sucks!”
It shouldn’t be funny, but it is. I also like when Ted tells Satan to “Choose your own [eternity], you fag!’ I mean, HE CALLS THE DEVIL A FAG. Bill then calls Satan an “ugly, red, source of all evil!”
See, even though there is nothing religious in the movie, Bill and Ted recognize evil when they see it. They also recognize good. I love when they go to Heaven and mug three wise men in order to get an audience with God. They immediately confess, prefacing it with “As I’m sure you already know . . .” and then Ted proceeds to congratulate God on Earth. “It is a most excellent planet, one which I enjoy on a daily basis.” Bill complements the Almighty on his other planets like “Mars . . . Jupiter . . . Uranus.” air guitaring
How can you not laugh at that? Also, when they leave after God tells them who the most brilliant scientist is that will help them build good robot versions of themselves, they tell him “Catch you later, God!” Yes, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey might be one of the only big-budget Hollywood comedies I can think of that has God in it . . . and doesn’t mock Him or His followers. And it’s still funny!
William Sadler is brilliant as Death, speaking in a bizarre Eastern European accent and re-enacting the most famous part of The Seventh Seal, but instead of playing Chess against the Reaper for the fate of their immortal souls, Bill and Ted challenge Death to a game of Battleship. And win. Death demands best two-out-of-three. They play Clue . . . and Bill and Ted win again. Best three-out-of-four. Bill and Ted beat him at electronic football. “Let me guess, best four-out-of-seven?” say our exasperated heroes. “Damn right!” hollers Death, before losing at Twister and finally granting the boys’ the right to return to the land of the living.
Station, the weird alien scientists, help Bill and Ted–and Death!–build good robot versions of themselves, they save the day at the Battle of the Bands, more time travel hijinks ensue, De Nomolos is defeated, world peace is achieved and . . . it’s all so goofy and stupid but played with such conviction that it all holds together for an entertaining hour and a half. I’m not sure which movie I like better–when I was a kid, it was definitely Bogus Journey, but after rewatching them both, they are both brilliant in their own ways. But Bogus Journey raises the stakes significantly, ups the weird quotient on what was already a charmingly bizarre film franchise, and pulls the whole thing off with aplomb. It’s not Oscar worthy cinema, but it’s entertaining as hell. Good triumphs over evil, including the ultimate evil, the heroes get the girls, and the day is saved.
And like the first, it’s still pretty wholesome. There are a few more gently off-color jokes. “Fag” is used twice. I counted about three times where someone was called a “dick,” and Bill, of course, refers to the Evil Robots as “Dickweed.” Bill and Ted look down Missy’s shirt again, and Evil Ted, upon seeing a photo of the princesses, says that he has a “full-on robot chubby.” It never feels gratuitous though. This is the Valley speak of the era. Oh, and Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin calls De Nomolos a “shithead”
“Station” is a weird thing. Apparently, it was an inside joke where the word “Station” was left in the script and a drunken Matheson and Solomon thought it was hilarious. So they kept that in as an inside joke, a weird bit of future slang that characters either say to mean “Understood” or as a positive exclamation. Towards the end, Bill and Ted introduce Station the aliens as two dudes who can make one word mean anything, and that about sums it up. Bizarre? Sure. Necessary for the film to work? No, not really. And yet in an odd way, it fits perfectly with the vibe Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the killer soundtrack. Faith No More. Kiss. Megadeth. Winger. Steve Vai. Slaughter, Richie Kotzen. Primus (who are in the movie!). And a band I’ve just started getting into and holy cow how hadn’t I been a fan of these guys before, King’s X. It’s a who’s who of both popular and alternative hard rock and metal at the time, and shows that the people behind this movie were pretty in tune with the pop culture around them.
This movie is great. I recommend you watch both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey back-to-back for a most triumphant time. I’m ready to watch Bill and Ted Face the Music and I sincerely hope it’s good. Otherwise, that would be most non-non-non-non-non-heinous.
My books are almost non-heinous. Check out The Last Ancestor for some most triumphant sci-fi action. Station!