Ted'-Theodore-Logan

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You were sitting outside, keeping to yourself waiting for your friends to come meet up with you as two boys came walking towards you. It was the infamous Bill and Ted duo, who were the biggest idiots in your school. Just as it looked like Bill was about to come and talk to you, he manged to trip over his own feet, falling face first onto the ground as you sat there and couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. 

“Nice going to Bill, you literally feel head over heels for Y/N. That’s the way to do it,” Ted remarked as Bill was still on the ground, looking rather pissed off at Ted. 

“Shut up Ted.” 

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey: The Most Bodacious Comedy Sequel Ever?

19 July 1991 saw Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves came to the big screen for the second and, to date, last time as Bill S Preston Esq. and Ted Theodore Logan – and 25 years on, ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey’ stands tall as quite possibly the best comedy sequel of all time.

Some might call that overstatement – but at the same time, calling ‘Bogus Journey’ the best ever comedy sequel may seem faint praise, given that the vast majority of such films range from mediocre to downright awful. 

Consider the two ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ sequels; rapid downward spiral of the ‘Police Academy’ series; or in more recent years, the follow-ups to ‘The Hangover,’ ‘Anchorman’ and ‘Zoolander.’ They all tend to fall into the same trap of blandly revisiting what went before, and singularly failing to recapture the charm.

It seems the best most comedy sequels can manage is to produce something which more or less stands on a par with its predecessor, as is arguably the case with ‘Ghostbusters 2,’ ‘Wayne’s World 2,’ ’22 Jump Street,’ and most recently ‘Bad Neighbours 2.’ 

But hardly any come to mind which truly surpass what went before on every level – with the exception of ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.’

An improvement in every respect (aside from the less-catchy title), ‘Bogus Journey’ is a better-shot, better-acted production which realises the cartoonish potential of the premise far more effectively than the Stephen Herek-directed ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.’ 

This may in part be thanks to the increased budget ($20 million to the original’s $10 million), and also due to the vision of the more FX-savvy director Pete Hewitt, who made his feature debut here. 

But the lion’s share of the credit must go to writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, and stars Reeves and Winter, who had the gormless future rock star messiahs Bill and Ted down to a T by this point.  

On a basic level, the plot isn’t too far removed from most sequels insofar as it follows the same essential structure as its predecessor: just as in 1988’s ‘Excellent Adventure,’ we join our dim-witted young heroes – who, we now know, will somehow become world-changing icons in the future – as they reach a pivotal turning point in their lives. 

Where it was a high school history report in ‘Excellent Adventure,’ it’s a battle of the bands contest in ‘Bogus Journey.’ As circumstances conspire against them, Bill and Ted must embark on a bizarre and hazardous race against time, picking up unlikely allies along the way, in order to make it to their goal.

However, ‘Bogus Journey’ steps away from the time travel set-up of ‘Excellent Adventure,’ instead taking an altogether bolder, less predictable approach by literally killing off its heroes in the first twenty minutes – then sending them on a mini-odyssey through the afterlife, taking in Heaven and Hell in the process.

It’s a bizarre premise – but given how extraordinarily odd ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ was to begin with, surely the only way to go with the sequel was even stranger.

Also, what the whole death angle, ‘Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey’ is also a much darker film than its predecessor, although apparently not as dark as it might have been. The sequel was initially entitled ‘Bill and Ted Go To Hell;’ while our heroes’ sojourn in the underworld takes only a small portion of ‘Bogus Journey’s 85-minute runtime, this sequence was originally far longer. 

Deleted footage would have seen Bill and Ted informed by a demon (who, just to prove his repulsiveness, pulls a live rat out of his mouth) that they are condemned to break rocks for eternity – only for the affable headbangers to find they actually quite enjoy swinging sledgehammers around.

Upping the darkness factor further are Bill and Ted’s evil robot doppelgangers, sent back from the future by militant usurper De Nomolos (a gloriously droll Joss Ackland) to murder the icons-in-waiting and take over their lives. 

Here too, some footage hit the cutting room floor, as originally we would have seen the evil robots throwing an old lady off a balcony, and eviscerating goldfish in a waste disposal unit; moments which were deemed a little too much for a PG-rated film. (We have to settle for Evil Bill and Ted repeatedly trying, but failing, to kill cats in the street.)     

Nothing unusual about a sequel taking the story in a darker direction, of course (’Empire’ syndrome) – but with the perpetually optimistic Bill and Ted at the centre of proceedings, things can never get particularly grim, even when one of the main characters is Death himself.

One of the great joys of ‘Bogus Journey’ is how, for much of the film, the double act pretty well becomes a trio, as William Sadler’s Grim Reaper – surely the most notable (indeed, probably the only) Ingmar Bergman reference in a 1990s youth-oriented comedy – becomes a key player, and to a large extent winds up stealing the movie. 

Sadler (also seen in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Die Hard 2’) hasn’t done too much comedy, and proves a dab hand at deadpan humour (no pun intended). As straight man to Bill and Ted’s goofballs, the Reaper endures more than his share of indignity, first on the receiving end of a ‘melvin’ (which we gather is essentially the same as a wedgie), then being defeated in a series of popular home games by Bill and Ted. Just as well they didn’t opt for chess.

Earlier drafts of the script saw Bill and Ted recruit a number of historical figures in Heaven to assist them in defeating their evil robot doppelgangers, but it was probably for the best this approach wasn’t taken as it would have seemed too derivative of ‘Excellent Adventure;’ and in any case, the earlier film sometimes struggled to share the spotlight equally across its broad ensemble. 

With just the Reaper, the Martian scientist Station (see, Groot wasn’t the first loveable alien with a vocabulary limited to his own name) and ultimately the good robot Bill and Ted, we have just enough colourful characters to back up our heroes.

Alas, the love interest princesses are every bit as underdeveloped here as they were in the original, although Pam Grier gets a nice cameo, and Amy Stock-Poynton’s Missy (I mean Mom) is given a little more to do, so it isn’t all bad news for the female characters.

And of course, this being Bill and Ted, ‘Bogus Journey’ boasts a hard-rockin’ soundtrack custom designed to get the audience doing air guitar. On top of memorable cameos from rock band Primus and ex-Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin, the film is perhaps best remembered for its climactic anthem, Kiss’ ‘God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You II.’ 

Though this is actually a slightly modified cover version (hence the addition of ‘II’ to the title) of an earlier track by British rockers Argent, the track is now synonymous with the make-up splattered glam rockers, and reportedly remains a staple of their live shows to this day.

The past 25 years have seen plenty of rumours and speculations as to whether or not Bill and Ted will ever return to the screen. Much has changed since; where Reeves has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Winter largely retired from acting in favour of a directing career. 

Even so, both the actors, plus screenwriters Solomon and Matheson, have in recent years spoken at length about their plans for a third ‘Bill and Ted’ movie, and if reports are to be believed we may be seeing it in the not-too distant future with ‘Galaxy Quest’ director Dean Parisot on board.

But even without a third movie, we need never look any further than the original two ‘Bill and Ted’ movies to remind us of the importance of being excellent to each other, and partying on, dude (even if, surprisingly, they never use those phrases in ‘Bogus Journey’).

Picture Credit: MGM

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