Review
Bill and Ted are non-bogus in their sequel

by Jim Emerson
The Orange County Register

'Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey'

  • Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, William Sadler, Joss Ackland, George Carlin.

  • Behind the scenes: Directed by Pete Hewitt.  Screenplay by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon.  Cinematography by Oliver Wood.  Production design by David L. Snyder.  Music by David Newman.

  • Playing: Opens today in theaters throughout Orange County.

  • Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

  • Rated: PG - language

  • Worth renting: Other films of note featuring Keanu Reeves: "River's Edge" (1987); "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988); "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989); "Parenthood" (1989); "I Love You to Death" (1990).

  • But skip: "Youngblood" (1986); The Night Before (1988); "The Prince of Pennsylvania" (1988).

Bill and Ted as dead dudes?

Bill and Ted plummeting -- and plummeting and plummeting -- into their own personal hells?

Evil robot twin Bill and Teds from the future whose mission is to subvert the real Bill and Ted's utopian philosophy ("Be excellent to each other" and "Party on, dudes!") and ruin their future reputation?

No way!

Way!

In the elaborate, extravagant, non-non-non-heinous sequel to the 1989 low-budget time-travel sleeper hit "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," our San Dimas hero-dudes take a Pilgrim's Progress tour of the afterlife, from the depths of hell ("We've been totally lied to by our album covers, man!") to a colorless, bureaucratic heaven (borrowed from Michael Powell's classic "Stairway to Heaven").

Like metal-head Candides, Bill and Ted are true-hearted, optimistic innocents.  They still have the same girlfriends -- the "princess babes" -- whom they rescued from medieval England in the first movie.  One night, after proposing to their beloved princess babes, they admit with a bewildered shrug: "Our girlfriends are most chaste.  After we get married, I wonder if they'll stay over some night."

These guys have such a sweet, childlike view of life that they don't really know the difference between friends and lovers.  They just like people -- especially pretty babes and rock stars -- and want these people to like them back.

Consequently, the princess babes also play instruments -- better than Bill and Ted -- in the boys' band, Wyld Stallyns.  The boys may use sexist terms such as "babes," but it's only because it's part of their own private lexicon -- the only language they understand.  There's nothing malicious about it.

A lot of critics disapproved of the stupidity Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) displayed in their excellent initial adventure: Things like pronouncing "Freud" as "Frood" and "Socrates" as "So-crates."

OK, we all know Bill and Ted are not bright.  They're dim bulbs.  They're dumb.  That's a given.  But there's more to them than empty noggins.

"Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" was irreverently simpleminded, but it was not an anti-intellectual treatise.  The point is that some wisdom -- "Be excellent to each other" is just Bill and Ted-ese for The Golden Rule -- isn't the product of great mental labors, but is a simple truth that's easy to grasp.

Face it: You can't help but like these guys.  They're so open, naive, optimistic and full of goodwill for their fellow dudes and babes that you have to cut them some slack.  They'd do the same for you.

In "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," directed by Peter Hewitt and written by original Bill and Ted creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, an evil dude from the future named De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) takes over Bill & Ted University and sends evil twin robot Bill and Teds back in time to 1991 to kill the real Bill & Ted.

Rufus (George Carlin), now a professor emeritus at B&TU, follows them by anchoring his guitar to the top of their time-traveling phone booth.

That's only the beginning.  Bill and Ted meet the Grim Reaper (William Sadler, speaking in a very silly Czechoslovakian accent and dressed in a costume left over from Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal") and fool him (or "melvin" him) into escorting them through heaven and hell and back to San Dimas, which is somewhere in-between.  They also bring with them some deceased extraterrestrial dudes, called "Stations," whom they've met in the Great Beyond.

"Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" doesn't really warm up until the laugh-out-loud scenes with our boys and Mr. Reaper playing Battleship for their souls.  But it's the kind of movie that's so disarmingly silly that you find yourself smiling almost all the way through.

Some may argue that it was a mistake to spend so much money on special effects and spectacular sets when the protagonists are just two scruffy teens from San Dimas.  But that's just the point: The concept of two characters as stupid as Bill and Ted starring in a multi-million-dollar major motion picture is pretty funny in and of itself, even if it is sort of an in-joke.

The technology that makes it possible for Bill and Ted to interact with their "evil robot us's" also is quite impressive, but even though the robots look and act like Bill and Ted, they're not nearly so much fun to watch.  After all, we know they've been programmed to behave this way.  Bill and Ted just do it because they're naturals.

And the evil robots have a sinister agenda -- there's a heinous intelligence behind their actions.  What makes the real Bill & Ted so much fun to watch is their innocence and lack of self-consciousness.  After all, these guys believe in treating everyone in the same ingenuous, friendly, informal manner.

That's why they're such cool dudes.