Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

I’ll admit it, I really wasn’t that impressed with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

It was funny and had its share of good moments, but to me it seemed to lack…something.  I’m not sure what.  Perhaps a stronger sense that Bill and Ted’s world changing credo “be excellent to each other and rock on dudes” was deliberately absurd.  I don’t know.

But the end result was that I never felt any great desire to watch the sequel.

However, with a copy of the latest installment of the series in my hands I felt that it was time to go back and finally watch the (first) sequel.

And what do you know.  I enjoyed it.

More than the first film, in fact.

All is not well in the future.

Everyone is living in peace and harmony thanks to Bill and Ted.

Well, almost everyone.

The evil despot, De Nomolos (played powerfully by the great British actor Joss Ackland, who has regretted taking the part ever since), can’t stand them, so he sends robot copies to kill Bill and Ted.

And succeeds…

It really didn’t surprise me to learn that Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, who wrote the first film, also wrote the sequel.  After all, it isn’t just a bigger and louder rehash of the original, but a film which carried the original story further, in surprising new directions — and even has a new and very different plot from the first film.

Which, believe it or not, is exactly what a sequel is supposed to do.

What’s more, our two time-traveling slacker heroes even achieve some real personal growth along the way.

…Mind you, it does involve getting killed and going to Hell.

There are a lot of things this film gets right: the monochrome Bill and Ted after they die; their atmospheric first encounter with Death (which has been defiantly lifted from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal but then burlesqued in one of the film’s goofiest moments); and the incredible visual design of wild assortment of places.

This last is perhaps the most excellent part of a film which takes us to such exotic places as Bill and Ted University in the future; Hell (complete with a very impressive devil); and a beautiful version of heaven which is also heavily “borrowed,” this time from David Niven’s Stairway to Heaven; not to mention a pair of Martian scientists and a set of good Bill and Ted robots (which, I’ll admit, are probably my favorite piece of design work in the film!).

But none of this would be important if the film weren’t funny.

Which it definitely is.  Funnier than the first film, in fact, with one of the funniest — and cleverest — scenes coming as they use the time machine proactively in their final battle with De Nomolos.

Well, sorta.  They will eventually.

And this leads to the film’s finest moment when our heroes triumph.

But only because they’ve become adults.

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