Review: ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey’ (how’s it hanging, Death?)

Some not-cool dudes refuse to appreciate a utopian society of peace and harmony.

A few years after a most excellent adventure passing history, Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) are no further along in realizing their dream of stardom than they are of learning to play their instruments. With the love and approval of their princesses on the line, bad dude De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) commandeers a time machine from Rufus (George Carlin) in the future to send evil Bill and Ted robots into the past to kill the boys. Spoiler: being dead totally sucks… and the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) really hates losing.

Original named Bill and Ted Go to Hell, the same writing team and cast came together to take “Wyld Stallyns” to the next level… down. Less history-oriented than its predecessor and more focused on existential adventure, the boys aren’t in high school anymore while still resisting adulting. Can our slacker heroes figure out a way to save the princesses from evil robots, defeat a bad guy they don’t know exists, and win a battle of the bands — against Primus, for God’s sake — to fulfill their wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey destiny?

While the exact same ninety-minute length as the original, Bogus Journey feels longer than it is because our heroes spend an awful lot of the movie running and losing… a lot. Having an actual bad guy changes the dynamic to something less fun and more serious — along with the included alcohol and substance references missing from the original — but the inclusion of Death as a wild card provides a new too-serious foil for Bill and Ted to happily torment. The same well-meaning charm and keep-going positivity isn’t as effective, but the sequel does culminate in the kind of ending this franchise and audiences enjoy.

The bread and butter of both Bill and Ted films is rooted in their attitudes. When they’re happy, everything’s elated, and when they’re disappointed, it’s like watching a struggling puppy; you can’t help but want to cuddle and console the poor thing. Gruff characters like De Nomolos and Ted’s dad are such over-serious downers all the time, and the story revels in defeating their types at every turn. Like its predecessor, Bogus Journey owns its weird and wallows in it — including creatures that look like escapees from Labyrinth — but it still falls short of its freshman franchise entry. Bonus: Pam Grier!

Considering this film’s release was in 1991, its performance fits the typical franchise rules of that era: spend twice the budget to make not quite as much as the previous installment. Still, the ending seeded enough interest for fans to want a third film, if only to see the original premise fulfilled. Who knew that would take almost three decades?

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is rated PG for Steve Vai on guitar, Station! and “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” dude.

Three skull recommendation out of four

Speak up, Mortal -- and beware of Spoilers!

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