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‘Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 19, 1991


Pete Hewitt
Keanu Reeves;
Alex Winter;
Bill Sadler;
Joss Ackland;
Pam Grier;
Geroge Carlin
Parental guidance suggested

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"Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is a brain-dead classic. It's like having a noggin full of Cheetos, and to enjoy it, all you have to do is click the switch in your head to the "off" position and shoot the curl of dumb gags and mindless banter. This is a teenage screwball comedy with all its screws proudly loose -- a masterpiece of stupid.

There's nothing bogus about this locomotivated follow-up; it's a truly excellent adventure, hilariously inventive, greased-lightning paced and dumb-bunny brilliant. The movie has a delirious, toss-away spirit, and director Peter Hewitt wastes not a millisecond getting the show on the road. It begins far into the future at Bill & Ted University, after many peaceful years in which the people of the world have been "excellent to each other." One figure, though, the evil De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), is fed up with these shaggy heavy-metal gurus and, to end their rule, creates a cyborg Bill and Ted to travel back into the past and kill the real masters of the air guitar, win the pivotal Battle of the Bands and pave the way for De Nomolos's sinister reign.

To guarantee that world history continues to groove to their beat, the real Bill and Ted must outsmart their malignant robot twins, which means that the Earth is in, like, way serious trouble. Though Bill and Ted (played again by Alex Winter as William S. Peterson, Esq., and Keanu Reeves as Ted "Theodore" Logan) are as irresistible as frolicking puppies, they've been sitting far too close to the TV set for far too long. They have baby-chickie cerebrums, which, in fact, is the essence of their considerable charm and the source of most of the movie's humor. Watching them sift through their gray matter for an idea, you feel the planet shift into glacial time; they make Laurel and Hardy look like Nichols and May.

There is something verging on the heroic, though, about these winsome losers. Their commitment to obliviousness is so total that it's almost valiant. They're innocents in a world all their own, and there's a winning, almost Zen-like purity about them, especially in the scenes with their "most chaste" princess girlfriends (Sarah Trigger and Annette Azcuy). With very little ado the boys are dispatched by their miscreant robo-twins and have to face down both the Devil (whom they refer to as "the Dude Downstairs") and the Grim Reaper, and in each case they display their own special brand of blotto resourcefulness. Who else would think to give the Devil a "Melvin"? Their climactic face-offs with the Reaper Dude (William Sadler), who as Bill observes has a lot to learn about sportsmanship, are the movie's high points; they're beautifully set up and gut-rippingly funny.

So is almost everything in the movie, including Bill and Ted's audience with God, who asks them the secret of the universe, and guess what? They get it right! And as a reward, they are supplied with a pair of Martians who build "good" robot Bill and Teds to go head-to-head with their "evil" replicants at the Battle of the Bands. At this point, the film's story line becomes a trifle jumbled, but the narrative lurching doesn't matter much because Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, who wrote both this and the first "Bill & Ted" picture, make sure that the jokes are in plentiful supply. From beginning to end, the film percolates along as if its engine were being stoked with an endless supply of junk food; it's the movies' first Twinkie-powered comedy.

Every aspect of this sequel is superior to the first film. Where that picture was shoddy and indifferently made, a clunky slapped-together item, "Bogus Journey" is sharp and expertly timed. Hewitt, who makes his feature debut here, isn't just another journeyman director; he has his own distinct comic voice, his own way with a joke. This time out, we feel as if we're being given the true essence of Solomon and Matheson's Bill & Ted universe, their whole vision, intact and uncompromised. Besides being just plain funny, there's a satisfying consistency of spirit here. When Bill & Ted create their own new world order, it all hangs together. More than that, their simple philosophy -- "Be Excellent to Each Other" -- comes across as a pretty sound platform. These two make being smart seem vastly overrated.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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