In July 1991, almost two years after the excellent first Bill and Ted movie, the loveable-yet-cool, air-guitar-playing duo returned in the sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Instead of merely time travelling, the follow-up film had the Wyld Stallyns navigating the afterlife and Bogus Journey also had something the original didn’t: a villain (or more accurately, villains). In the future, Rufus’ Gym teacher Chuck De Nomolos (played by Joss Ackland – Lethal Weapon 2) incensed with Bill and Ted’s Christ-like status, sends two lookalike robots back in time to kill our heroes. What follows is an adventure which instead of spanning time, ventures to hell, heaven, and back as Bill and Ted fight to regain their future saviour status as well as hold on to their soon-to-be-wives, the princesses. Instead of delivering a school report, this time our dim-witted duo have to succeed in winning a song contest, the Battle Of The Bands in a Cheech and Chong Up In Smoke kind of way.
With Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure following in the footsteps of Back To The Future, this sequel borrows a little from Back To The Future Part III (which was released a year earlier) in so far that marriage and family begins to take over the adventure. In my opinion, Doc Brown essentially abandoning Marty McFly and going on escapades with his wife and kids, ruined their peculiar yet endearing relationship. Even though most people’s lives follow a depressing construct of getting a job, getting married, having kids, getting old, and dying, there’s no reason why an action, fantasy, science fiction comedy needs to follow suit. This is the first element that chips away at all the fun created by the first film; instead of wide-eyed teens, we have conformist twenty-somethings creeping into the narrative.
Aside from the Back To The Future influence, you have to consider the other films which were out at the time. The buzz for Terminator 2: Judgment Day was rapidly growing, and Ghost was released a year earlier, so Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey either consciously or subconsciously incorporated the afterlife and cyborgs into the plot.
Bogus Journey goes off in a completely different direction to Excellent Adventure and seeing Beelzebub, God, aliens, and robots instead of historical figures is a welcome change. There’s nothing worse than a sequel retreading familiar concepts and regurgitating scenes, lines, and actions (although the strumming of a country guitar when Ted possesses his dad is a nice touch). Since there’s a new director (Peter Hewitt instead of Stephen Herek) there’s a more stylish aesthetic (and better camerawork and score) but Hewitt’s look doesn’t resemble the original which therefore gives the sequel a different kind of atmosphere.
Bogus Journey had almost three times the budget of Excellent Adventure so everything looks… err, not better, but a little more expensive. San Dimas in 2691 A.D. for example, is no longer a glittery, blue, empty place, but instead a neoprene and blacklight-filled future. There’s a Bill & Ted University, their mottos are adorned on foam plinths 😄 and the time machine phonebooth has had an aerial upgrade for no other reason than an expanding budget. Some of the $20 million has been put to good use however, namely Station, a melding alien twin scientist, and his/their creation the Good Robot Us’s used to fight Evil Bill and Evil Ted (as well as the various nightmarish eternities in Hell).
Like the first movie, there’s so many wacky and outlandish ideas that contribute to the comedy: falling down a deep hole, an almost never-ending chasm to hell with enough time to play a game of 20 questions, playing Twister with Death, saying the double entendre “Uranus/You’re anus” to God, the fact that nobody bats an eyelid at two aliens and the grim reaper shopping in Builders Emporium, all these things are examples of the absurd nature of this film.
Like the first movie, there’s also lots of hilarious lines like this in regards to Hell: “This is not like I expected at all… yeah, we got totally lied to by our album covers, man!”. Death (played by William Sadler – Die Hard 2) adds another iconic character to the franchise, a playful guy with a Schwarzenegger accent who steels the show. With Death saying “See you real soon” to a smoker, and the amusing line “did you assume that the most brilliant scientist in the entire universe would be from earth?”, he is partly the reason why I rate this sequel so high.
In terms of the two leads; Alex Winter does a fantastic job of playing Bill’s grandmother Granny Preston and both Alex and Keanu perform the evil robotic doppelgängers in a subtly different way to the human Bill and Ted – “we used to be puss-weeds but now we’re metal!”. Similar to Bernie Casey and Clarence Clemons, Pam Grier plays Ms. Wardroe and Blues musician Taj Mahal plays the Gatekeeper in heaven, two important black characters that are again, not stereotypes. Incidentally, Bill and Ted’s girlfriends (played by different actors to the first – another similarity with the Back To The Future Trilogy) now have worse English accents than they did in Excellent Adventure!
Whilst on the topic of the princesses, being concerned with marriage and “raising a family” is not only the antithesis of “Rock”, it’s a bit sad and arguably the very thing that ruined countless musician’s careers. Bill and Ted saying they can “barely afford their apartment” is another unnecessary worry in a sci-fi comedy (at least there’s no mention of what jobs they’re doing à la Face The Music). All these elements help create a slightly depressing sequel, especially when viewed immediately after the first film.
There are lots of positives to counter-balance this; Bill and Ted are dressed better, they have better haircuts, and they’ve moved with the times in terms of music too (the soundtrack went slightly “harder” than the original). I will say however; would Iron Maiden fans ever listen to Faith No More and then grow a ZZ Top beard? I think that’s three distinct rock fans (Heavy Metal, Alternative Metal, and Blues Rock respectively) in the same way Trap or G-Funk fans don’t generally listen to Boom Bap Hip-Hop.
Back to the film, the one thing that remained consistent is the fact that the timelines don’t make much sense. The future is still a utopia but in the present day Bill and Ted are still piss-poor at playing music. Being bad guitarists means they haven’t saved the world hence the utopian future wouldn’t exist in order to send anyone back, but like the first film, this paradox is kinda by-the-by. Like the first movie, Bill, Ted, and De Nomolos play the “time game” in which they say something and it comes to fruition without actually carrying it out. Like Excellent Adventure, this is a silly plot device that you have to ignore or go with.
Giving the grim reaper a wedgie (or Melvin), interfering with a séance, meeting their worst nightmares, possessing Ted’s father (and his colleague’s bodies – “It worked in the Exorcist 1 & 3”), there’s so many zany ideas here that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is impossible not to like. Seeing two of my favourite characters in another relatively fun film makes me ignore the problems this film has. The likeability factor when it comes to Bill, Ted, and Death is the reason this sequel was a success.
Unfortunately, the success of both Bill and Ted movies led to a 1992 arse-garbage live-action TV show which I don’t remember existing (probably a good thing). My god, there’s no end to what producers, writers, and film companies will ruin just to make money. Hopefully this isn’t true of the upcoming Bill & Ted Face The Music.
Speaking of remakes, despite being a cover-version, Kiss’ brilliant rendition of Argent’s “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You” ends the film perfectly in an upbeat fashion with The Wyld Stallyns winning Battle Of The Bands and going on to bigger and better things.
The guitar-playing duo actually save the planet at the end of Bogus Journey (according to the newspaper and magazines shown during the final credits): The Wyld Stallyns have a Number 1 album, they play Wembley Stadium in 2691 (which will never happen since the new one is called “Wembley Stadium Connected By EE” and the pair will be over 700 years old), they also play the Grand Canyon, they use the world nuclear arsenal to fuel amplifiers, air guitar is found to eliminate smog, and the announcement “Bill & Ted Tour Mideast: Peace Achieved” I assume, means there’s finally peace in the Middle East. In addition to this, there’s plans for Wyld Stallyns to play on the planet Mars and there’s also Bill & Ted: The Movie! coming in March 2691. Save to say that all of this seems to contradict the goings on in the upcoming sequel, Bill & Ted Face The Music where the pair, now in their 50’s still haven’t written the song that saves the world! Who knows what else Face The Music is going to retract or reverse, let’s hope they don’t ruin the franchise in the process. That being said, I suppose anything is better than the idea of Justin pissing Bieber starring in a reboot, something that was genuinely being considered by Hollywood execs several years ago 🧐.
Here in the UK, there’s still no blu-ray release of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey even though Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure has a 4K blu-ray available to purchase. Hopefully there’ll be a complete 4K trilogy at some point in the future. Unlike Alien, Die Hard, Terminator, and Scream, let’s hope we can buy a Bill & Ted boxset without needing to ignore the infuriatingly inferior sequels.
Far From Bogus.