Sunday, July 17, 2016

BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) - ***


Rated PG
Running time: 93 min.
Release date: July 19, 1991

Some things are just inexplicable. "What is the meaning of life?", for instance; a question asked by a character in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Something else inexplicable? Why Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is an enjoyable movie. Well, three-quarters enjoyable anyway. A lot of the comedy is both dumb and charming simultaneously, and most of it works in spite of itself. This is most definitely a heinous comedy with a plot that gets a little too bogus near the end.

The movie opens in the future, sometime in the 27th century. Society finds itself in a utopian state thanks to the music of Bill & Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, respectively), the heroes of the first film, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Students of Bill & Ted University attend the music class of Rufus (George Carlin), who uses his phone booth time machine to bring Johann Sebastian Bach and James Martin of the band Faith No More to the classroom for guest lecture. Everything is interrupted by the appearance of Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) and his followers. De Nomolos has a severe distaste for this society and plans to change the past in order make himself and his own ideals the norm for this future society. He has concocted a plan to send evil robot duplicates of Bill & Ted back in time to kill original Bill & Ted and destroy their reputation. In movie terms, this plot device sounds silly but Joss Ackland's villainy makes this work at this point of the film.

Meanwhile, in the 20th century, Bill & Ted are attempting to earn a spot in a local battle of the bands competition, but have a horrible audition. The promoter (Pam Grier) likes them and puts them in anyway. Their bandmates are their princesses from the first film, brought to present day California via medieval England, Elizabeth and Joanna (Annette Azcuy and Sarah Trigger). Later on, Bill and Ted propose to their girls, in a funny scene where each guy has prepared almost the same speech and surprisingly the girls each say yes. Soon after, evil robot Bill and Ted trick real Bill and Ted into thinking their girlfriends dumped them, then show up and abduct real Bill and Ted, taking them into the desert and killing them. The movie then becomes an inspired, creative comedy by having Bill and Ted meet the Grim Reaper as played by William Sadler. Death suffers the indignity of a melvin as dead Bill and Ted make their escape.

This portion of the film is quite inventive, as Bill and Ted discover that Hell is a place where you revisit the scariest moments of your life. They decide the only way out is to accept Death's challenge of a contest for their souls. William Sadler is great here, as Death suffers one indignity after another in games such as Battleship, Clue and Twister. It is not a stretch to say that Sadler really brought the film to a level that it was not expected to reach, as he shows perfect comedic timing with simple expressions. Film buffs will recognize the parody of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, but it would be a surprise if Bergman fans were watching this film. Death agrees to take Bill and Ted back so they can complete their plan of defeating the evil robot Bill and Ted and making it to the battle of the bands. However, they decide that they need some help and with Death now under their command, they are taken to Heaven to find that help. It turns out that quoting Poison song lyrics can grant you entry beyond the Pearly Gates.

There are some neat technical touches in the film, such as the sound effects for dead Bill and Ted's voices, as well as some visual effects when the duo attempt their first bodily possessions. Director Peter Hewitt, in his feature debut, creates a fast pace to the film but it never feels rushed or forced. The screenplay by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon is littered with funny dialogue but the plot falls off the rails near the end, as it was stretched way too thin anyway. The movie has earned enough goodwill at that point that the last twenty minutes can be forgiven.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey takes a rather dumb plot and infuses it with genuine charm, as Bill and Ted are nice guys who just want to play music and marry their babes. Then the charm unfolds into creative and original comedy, highlighted by a fantastic turn by William Sadler. This film was an unexpected pleasure for about seventy minutes or so until the plot needed to be resolved. The plot may have run out of steam, but the charm was there throughout.






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