Sunday, June 21, 2009

11 Word Review Expanded: Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey


Before he was saving Sandra Bullock from The Bus That Wouldn’t Slow Down, monotoning his way through being The One in the Matrix Series, or even misplacing his mind in A Scanner Darkly, Keanu Reaves was Ted “Theodore” Logan.

The first Bill and Ted movie (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is a pretty humorous endeavor in its own right: two young men who, in 100 years, will likely seem like the crystallization of the “slacker” stereotype (played by Reaves and Alex Winter,) travel through history to ensure that they pass their history report and, subsequently, preserve a utopia future timeline where their garage band music is the blueprint for an entire perfect civilization. It's good, in a very silly sort of way.

When doing a sequel, it’s often tempting to just repeat the formula but just up the stakes or do more on a larger scale, but this movie doesn’t just. It takes a ridiculous concept and pushes it even further. In Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted are killed by evil robot versions of themselves, escape from Death, go to Hell, defeat and then master the Grim Reaper, travel to Heaven to get genius Martian scientists Station to build good robot versions of themselves, then return to Earth to defeat the evil robot Bill and Ted and the film’s nominal villain Chuck De Nomolos.

Read that sentence again. Soak it in. This just isn’t a film with increased stakes, it’s one playing in a super-absurd kind of world. And the thing is, each of these events logically progresses from the last, and each of these sequences is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Picking up from the last lines of Excellent Adventure (their time-traveling mentor Rufus [George Carlin] saying to the audience after witnessing a disastrous Wyld Stallyns practice session, “They get better. I promise,”) Bill and Ted are entered into the San Dimas Battle of the Bands. The movie really ends up being how Bill and Ted’s band manages to become the greatest in the world. And, including Martians, Death, and Medieval Princess girlfriends as the rest of the band, and some time travel, it’s really hard not to be.

Rather than just summarize the movie and give a lengthy version of “Oh my god, how awesome is that,” here are my three favorite parts of the movie (in no particular order.)

1) Twister With Death

Ingmar Bergman is probably rolling over in his grave, and was probably livid when this came out, but that’s why I find this hilarious. Having two idiots play and proceed to beat Death in a series of boardgames (Battleship, Clue, and Twister amongst them.) Also, the sublimated rage with which Death says, “You have sunk my battleship” is awesome. Death is actually probably my favorite character. Also note the mix of seriousness and humor that makes this work.

2) Heaven

Notable primarily that the meaning of life is revealed to be from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

3) The Ending

The magazine and newspaper montage here is probably the pinnacle of how ridiculous this idea is, but also how strangely compelling. I mean, this was literally right at the end of the Cold War, when Western Culture (like rock and roll and blue jeans) had been instrumental in finally making conditions in the Eastern Bloc seem so abysmal by comparison. Maybe…rock and roll really could bring us all together?

Also: “Death Wins Indie 500” with the subtitle, “I didn’t know I could run that fast.” C’mon. That’s just hilarious.

This is definitely an example of, while not necessarily a great movie, or even an excellently made one, but it is a very funny movie that does what it does well. The actual plot is pretty much useless; it’s primarily an excuse for the series of ridiculous events to take place. And part of what makes this compelling is the movie’s own internal logic. Of course the way to defeat evil robot versions of yourself are good robot versions of yourself. And of course Death would be proud enough to go through the entire Milton Bradley gaming library. Most sequels can only hope to be just as good as the previous film, but I think Bogus Journey exceeds its predecessor in every way.

The Bill and Ted series also spawned a briefly lived cartoon series, which, although inferior to the Back to the Future cartoon that ran around the same time, isn’t bad (and is available on Youtube.) However, if you have the time, and haven’t seen it before, or haven’t seen it in a long time, go watch Bogus Journey on hulu. You’re in for a treat.


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