Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Pete Hewitt
Right away, you can see the budget difference between Bogus Journey and its predecessor, Excellent Journey. The first film had an $8.5 million budget while the sequel was given $20 million. The production design and score are very apparent elements of this change. The film opens in the future, which consists of more than just one room like the original. We have high schoolers in San Dimas attending a course taught by Rufus. We have many more practical effects throughout the picture, matte paintings, and even some early digital effects. Instead of a time travel rehash, the story goes in some more spiritual and cosmic directions. The sense of humor is still the same, and our leads are so charismatic you enjoy watching them in action.
In 2691 the Wyld Stallyns utopian future is usurped by the terrorist Chuck de Nomolos. He attacks Bill & Ted University and commandeers the time machine, sending back two evil robots of Bill and Ted. These automatons travel back and convince the guys they are themselves from the future. The robots go about killing Bill and Ted and then disrupt their relationships with the princess with plans to ruin the moment they unite the world. Meanwhile, the real duo finds themselves spirits wandering the Earth running from Death (William Sadler). They play around with possession but find themselves eventually drug down into Hell, where they are forced to face their fears. They inevitably escape to Heaven, where they get help from the Supreme Being and return to take on their evil robot doppelgangers.
Part of the Bill and Ted movies is that the audience is always smarter than the lead characters, but we never look down on them. I would argue that Bogus Journey is an even wilder trip than Excellent Adventure, shaking off the limits of a time travel story and playing with ideas of life and death. Bill and Ted are young adults living on their own and facing how to make something of their lives. The princesses are happy to get engaged but do seem a bit disappointed with the young men’s inability to make headway in their music career. Cleverly, the duo is feeling the pressure put on them by Rufus to become the chosen ones, something it looks like the third film develops even further. All young people think that when they reach adulthood, the expectations of becoming functional in the modern world. I can only imagine how the next film could address this with their daughters, Thea and Billie.
William Sadler steals the show as Death, introduced as a play on Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal but revealed as a childish, insecure entity that wants to be part of the cool group. The decision to play Death this way is a lot of fun. He’s the butt of a lot of jokes, but it’s in keeping with the original film’s tone. There are no villains or significant threats. Even De Nomolos shows up at the end and is quickly dispatched with Bill and Ted comically not having any idea who he is. I think it’s an essential element to the Bill & Ted series that there isn’t a traditional villain. There can be conflict and threats but never something so simplistic as a deadly villain.
The end of Bogus Journey feels like closure on the story, using newspaper headlines and magazine covers to both joke and tell the story of Wyld Stallyns’ rise to power. It seems odd that we have this third film because the story appears to have ended. At the time of writing this review, I haven’t yet seen Bill and Ted Face the Music, but I suspect they have come up with a way to write themselves out of that closure. It’s unclear when exactly world unity is achieved and reading over those headlines I think you could argue they never show it happening. Instead, it’s just the rise of the band in popularity.
I would love to see the pressure of the future, causing Bill and Ted to flinch and not live up to their promise. There has been talk that the third film will be about the multiverse, so we might not be seeing the Bill and Ted we know. If you pay close attention to some of the lines in the most recent trailer, you’ll get a sense of where the story will go, and I like what I believe will happen. It may diminish the more significant role of Bill and Ted in the future, but I can see a lovely poignant moment coming out of that, emphasizing how support roles in people’s lives are so important.