When I first saw the teaser trailer for a new Bill and Ted sequel, I was stoked. Excellent Adventure was one of my favorite movies, and the thought of more time spent with Hollywood’s most excellent chuckleheads sent me into a frenzy. The finished product, however, left me cold. Weirded out and alienated, I spent years writing off Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey as a massive misfire, but as I grew older, my opinion on the film started to evolve until one day it dawned on me: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is about the best sequel you can ask for. Here’s a few reasons why:
1. It Re-Invents The First Film Instead of Rehashing It
A Bill and Ted sequel would be a plum job for a lazy screenwriter. Get the toasted duo back in their time machine, send them barreling through time and space again, make it so they graduate high school or get into college or whatever, air guitar here, Napoleon there—Bam. Job’s done.
What’s remarkable about Bogus Journey is how little it cribs from the first movie while retaining much of its essence. Rather than time travel, Bill and Ted’s medium for adventure this time around is life and death itself, as the dumb duo find themselves on a trip through Heaven and Hell. While Bill and Ted’s individual antics remain the same, their metaphysical trip mines gags that a simple time travel story couldn’t touch. But, while fundamentally different than the first, the structure is similar—they spend some time in Hell, spend some time as ghosts, move on up to Heaven—all the while meeting all kinds of famous folks, much like the first one, except this time instead of Billy the Kid and Joan of Arc, Bill and Ted rub elbows with Death, the Devil and God.
2. There’s No Time Travel (Well, Not Too Much, Anyway)
By keeping most of the film’s time traveling contained in its first and third acts, Bogus Journey opens itself up to several new ways to keep Bill and Ted’s affable, but thin, shtick from wearing itself out. The appeal of the first film wasn’t in so much in its time twisting narrative, but rather the appeal of seeing two boneheads try to cope with extraordinary circumstances. Ditching the time-traveling phone booth in favor of a twisted trip through the after-life opens the movie up for kid-gloved barbs at religion and mortality while still allowing cameos from Einstein and Confucius. Unlike, say, Back to the Future, whose appeal leans on its elaborate set-design and twisting narrative just as much as its characters, the tale of Bill and Ted, at its heart, is a human story–a dumb human story.
3. The Evil Robot Usses
This is another example of taking an element from the first movie and twisting it around into something fresh. The first film opens and closes with Bill and Ted meeting their past and future selves and playing off of each-others charms. Here, Bill and Ted are set against one another, as a disgruntled gym teacher from the future sends back evil robot versions of our heroes to kill and replace them. The robots look and act just like Bill and Ted—except, well, they’re evil. They’re basically bizarro versions, sporting dark shades instead of evil goatees. They still air guitar and make bad puns, but they do so while pushing people off of cliffs and trying to hit cats with cars. For being non-heinous murderers, they’re pretty likable.
4. Its Ridiculous Vision of the Future
In the Bill and Ted universe, our heroes eventually herald mankind’s next renaissance—paving the way of a future marked with world peace, love of music and wild advances in technology. The first movie offered only a couple of glimpses of the future that Bill and Ted beget, and Bogus Journey offers a bit more.
Opening in San Dimas, California 600 years in the future, the Bill and Ted future is a wildly 90’s affair, all sharp, geometric shapes and bright colors. Everyone walks around in foam outfits that make them look like background dancers in Space Channel 5. Advanced music theory is taught by guest lectures like Bach and Faith No More guitarist Big Jim Martin, and there’s all sorts of clunky technology like giant crystals that act like thumb drives and computer displays that look cooked up by a Commodore 64. If this is the future that Bill and Ted will create for us, bring on the air guitar.
5. The Seventh Seal Parody
While unpopular with casual fans, Bogus Journey was a moderate success with critics. Roger Ebert gave it a three star review, while other big name film scribes like Leonard Maltin and Gene Siskel rated it higher than the first film—and I can tell you the reason why right now: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is a silly movie with the gusto to include an extended Ingmar Bergman parody. Pretentious as it sounds, Bill and Ted mirroring Antonius Block’s chess game with Death from The Seventh Seal via heated bouts of Battleship, Clue and Twister is pitch perfect. Not only is the idea that Death would be out of touch with modern life funny, but the fact that the movie makes him into a petulant sore loser is hilarious.
Best of seven? DAMN RIGHT!
6. It’s Weird and Kind of Terrifying
One of the main things I took away from Bogus Journey when I first saw it twenty-odd years ago was just how outright scary it was. For what is ostensibly a kids’ movie, the narrative takes some pretty dark turns. By sending Bill and Ted into the depths of Hell, the movie mines some seriously twisted imagery: a killer easter bunny; a demented, prune-faced grandmother; and a devil with a serious need of an oral surgeon.
Even some of the more innocuous characters from the film are kind of freaky. In one of the movie’s more disturbing scenes, Station, the pair of perpetually naked aliens that Bill and Ted meet in Heaven, fuse together in this… weird, pulsing mass of flesh puddled on the ground for a reason that’s never fully explained. Then there are the evil robot usses, who regularly rip their own faces off to reveal their futuristic innards. Even the basic premise of the movie, that Bill and Ted die and go to Hell, is a pretty tall order for kids primed for another trip through time and space. Love Bill and Ted, Kids? Well here they are falling to their deaths. Excellent?
7. It’s Funny!
Even with all of the metaphysical gags, clever send-ups of Swedish movies and a surprisingly macabre tenor, Bogus Journey wouldn’t amount to anything if it weren’t as funny as the first film—and it holds up well in that department. It’s difficult to discuss the film’s best jokes without resorting to a quipfest, so… ah, to hell with it, bring on the quips!
I totally possessed my dad!