In the wake of the most excellent adventure of San Dimas’ finest sons, a return visit from Bill S. Preston Esq and Ted “Theodore”Logan seemed – much like our heroes – a definite no brainer. After the first movie had our dopey but adorable duo traverse the circuits of time in order to pass their history exam, this movie decided to put the founding members of the Wyld Stallions on a journey of the metaphysical; a journey to the worlds beyond; a journey to both heaven and hell; a journey that was ultimately considered most bogus by the reviewers of 1991.
If I personally had a phone booth that could cross time, one of the things I’d probably choose to do is go back then and give those same reviewers a brisk slap upside the head because not only was Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey undeserving of their scorn, but I maintain it’s actually my favorite Bill & Ted movie of the three.
The utopian future that is destined to pass when Bill & Ted help create the song that brings the world together is at risk. Jowly terrorist, Chuck De Nomolos has stormed the Bill & Ted university and gained control of the time travelling phone booth in order to send evil robot doubles back in time to kill our heroes and change the future. Upon reaching the correct year, they find the duo practicing for the Battle Of The Bands competition despite still not particularly being very good so the doubles promptly hurl their victims off a cliff and then head off to destroy whatever reputation the Wyld Stallions have left. Trapped as ghosts Bill & Ted can’t believe the predicament they’re now stuck in, but after narrowly avoiding a brush with the Grim Reaper himself by giving him a “Melvin” (ie. they wedgied the crap out of him when he least expected it), they try to possess and haunt members of their social circle in order to raise the alarm, but instead end up getting exorcised and are banished to hell. Still managing to be their upbeat selves despite now being tormented for eternity, they realise that the only way they’re ever going to get a chance to get back into their bodies and stop their evil robot doppelgangers is to challenge and beat Death at a game of their choosing and get him to take them to heaven to recruit help.
Can Bill & Ted manage to best Death (who turns out to not be the best of losers) and get the help they need, or will the evil robot doubles manage to tank the Battle Of The Bands and kill their princess girlfriends while they’re at it?
Whereas the first outing of the air guitar strumming chums was a gently anarchic jaunt through that dialed up the stupidity nicely (Napoleon loving water parks was a particular winner), Bogus Journey choses to amp up the weirdness exponentially to give us a special effects crammed, hour and a half of non-stop batshit insanity. The film literally refuses to sit still for a single second, whether it’s riffing on the body-horror comedy of the evil robot doubles detaching parts of themselves purely for fun, or our heroes flailing through the endless corridors of Hell, trying to escape their worst fears like Nickelodeon has remade Hellraiser II, the sequel moves with the boundless energy of it’s titular double act without once pausing for breath. It looks fucking stunning too, with the sets of Hell featuring fiery rocks and the wonky lines of german expressionism meets an Elm Street nightmare sequence, while Heaven looks suspiciously like an endless Apple Store where Benjamin Franklin plays charades with martian scientists. Visually, the film is furiously inventive and also garners maximum respect for being a madcap, 90’s teen comedy that heavily homages Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, which brings us to Bogus Jouney’s secret weapon. While introducing a few new characters (Station, the previously mentioned hive-mind alien brain box who looks like meth addicted Moomins being one), by far the greatest is that of William Sadler’s Death, a bone white, humourless reaper with a ludicrous Germanic accent, who’s peerless line readings (“You hav sank my baddle-SHIP!”) proves to be possibly the single best character in the whole trilogy. The sequence where he continuously loses at a whole bunch of games such as Clue, Twister and, of course, Battleship, may actually be my favorite comedic scene of the entire decade as the boys take a rare breather as straight men while Sadler essentially runs off with the whole film wholesale despite Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter being furiously on form as our most excellent adventurers.
Director Peter Hewitt (who went on to tackle similarly sweetly infantile movies with The Borrowers and Thunderpants) keeps things constantly moving at breakneck speed and it’s to his credit (and that of returning screen writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon) that the film only starts to run out of steam during it’s final act during the Battle Of The Bands.
Maybe the film was too dark for the tastes of audiences back in 1991 – it’s a fair point considering your heroes are murdered about twenty minutes in – but when it comes to sheer unfettered energy, it’s tough to fault and thankfully cultdom eventually gave the movie the second chance it so richly deserved. After all, how many other movies can you name where your main characters die, meet Death, possess one of their dads, get exorcised, end up in Hell, meet the devil, go to heaven, meet God and go on to rock out in a stadium full of metalheads?
It took a few years; but Bill And Ted’s hugely original second outing was finally upgraded from “totally bogus” to “most excellent” and the world is far better for it. Triumphant air guitars all round, then dudes.