Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
Studio Line: MGM

Bill and Ted are killed by their evil twins, robot agents from the future, and find themselves transported to the fiery depths below. They gamble with the Grim Reaper and end up traveling through heaven to find a great scientist to help them blow their evil twins to smithereens.

Director: Peter Hewitt
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, William Sadler, Joss Ackland, Pam Grier, George Carlin
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1, French, Spanish & Portuguese Monaural; subtitles English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; closed-captioned; single sided - double layered; 16 chapters; rated PG; 94 min.; $14.95; 12/4/01.
Supplements: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette; Trailers.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B-/B+/D+

With Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey, we go back 10 years to a time when Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were basically stars of the same magnitude. They both led this flickís first episode, 1988ís surprise hit Bill and Tedís Excellent Adventure and hadnít done much to differentiate their careers during the intervening years. Sure, Keanu had a supporting part in the 1989 hit Parenthood, and he also starred in 1991ís Point Break, but since that flick hit screens a whole week ahead of Journey, we canít say that it really altered his status before the second B&T movie hit screens. Winter did little between the two films, but Reeves still hadnít become famous enough to really cause a distinction.

Eventually, the rough parity between the actors would change, of course. Reeves became a major star via box office hits like Speed and The Matrix, whereas WinterÖ Well, heís still out there, but along with folks like Peter Scolari, he got left in the dust of his more-famous costar.

Not that any of this has much to do with the movie itself. Journey takes place a few years after Adventure. Apparently Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) finally graduated high school, and they still play in their band Wyld Stallyns with the medieval princesses - Elizabeth and Joanna (played by Annette Azcuy and Sarah Trigger, neither of whom appeared in Excellent) - they rescued during the first flick. However, they also still suck, and they work at a fast food joint to pay the bills while they wait for the bandís big break.

It appears that occasion may come with a local battle of the bands concert, and they finagle their way onto the bill. However, all is not well in the future. A society based on the music of Wyld Stallyns apparently has its malcontents, and Dr. De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) decides heís fed up with the groupís head-banging tones. As such, he creates Evil Bill and Evil Ted, robots who will go back in time to kill B&T and ruin their lives. (As if killing them wasnít bad enough!)

Shades of the Terminator flicks! Anyway, De Nomolos figures this will change the future and prevent the Wyld Stallynization of culture. However, Rufus (George Carlin) - the boysí helper from the first flick - hitches a ride on the time-traveling phone booth occupied by Evil B&T, so all is not lost.

Though it looks that way for a while. Evil B&T quickly meet up with and dispatch the real guys, and they start to mess up their lives. Totally dead, real B&T donít give up hope, and when the meet the Grim Reaper (William Sadler), they try to find a way back to the land of the living, where they plan to eliminate Evil B&T, make up with the princesses, and win the battle of the bands. As they do this, theyíll literally go through heaven and hell, with a few other stops along the way.

Adventure boasted a great concept, but the movie itself was more hit or miss; it had some good moments but overall it seemed very dated and hadnít aged particularly well. On the other hand, Journey doesnít have as inventive a basis for being - after all, it is a sequel - but the results appear much more creative and clever, even if the flick itself still suffers from its fair share of dull spots.

Journey comes across as more compelling simply because the darned thingís so surreal. Despite its time-travel theme, Adventure was a much more linear and forced creation. Journey sticks with a grounding plot as well, since the boys always work toward their ultimate goal of fixing their lives, but the side trips seem a great deal more bizarre. Almost anything goes in Journey, and the filmmakers exploit this freedom to a reasonably entertaining degree.

For all its flights of fancy, however, it isnít the story elements or subplots that ultimately makes Journey work. Itís the acting, as spotlighted by two of our supporting characters. Winter and Reeves basically just do the same stoner dude routine seen in the first film, though I must admit Reeves seems to have grown a little during the interim. Many mock Keanuís acting abilities, and I canít dispute a lot of this derision, but he does offer a more earnest and grounded feeling as Ted in Journey. Iím not terribly sure thatís appropriate for this kind of flick, but itís there nonetheless.

In addition, Winters and Reeves do seem to have a lot of fun as Evil B&T, and Winter also contributes another cameo as one of his relatives. That oneís grosser that amusing, though, and I could have lived without it.

Despite the expansion of the leads, they arenít the flickís strong points. One minor gem occurs midway through the film. In an attempt to jump-start their activity against the evil robots, ghost Ted possesses his dadís body. As performed by Hal Landon, Dad-Ted becomes a spot-on impression of Reevesí Ted mannerisms, and itís an absolute delight to see. Lest you think that itís just the novelty of the middle-aged guy acting like a stoner, note that Roy Brocksmithís trial as another police officer possessed by Bill is nowhere as successful. It really seems like Landon went above and beyond to get down the spirit of Reeves, and he does so wonderfully well.

That brief spot is a great bit, but a more consistently enjoyable presence comes from Sadler as Death. Before I saw Journey in 1991, Iíd only witnessed Sadler in one prior role: the scheming Colonel Stuart in 1990ís Die Hard 2. Considering that characterís icy demeanor, Sadler didnít seem like a candidate to play a broad comic character, but he makes the Reaper a total winner. He takes some lame material and creates comedy from it, and he also grabs hold of the good concepts and runs with them. Since this Death comes from the one in Bergmanís The Seventh Seal, he allows the boys to challenge him to a game; if they win, they get to go back to their living selves. Frankly, the idea of Death playing Battleship and other 20th century contests is cute but somewhat lame. Nonetheless, Sadler makes these - and many other - moments transcend their roots.

Sadlerís easily the best thing about Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey, but the movie remains moderately entertaining even when heís not on-screen. To be sure, itís not a great film, and Iím not even sure if itís a good one. Still, itís a creative affair, and it has enough compelling and witty moments to make it worth a look.

The DVD:

Bill and Tedís Bogus appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As was the case for the first movie, this picture looked good for the most part, but some niggling concerns kept it from being much better than average.

Bogus showed a somewhat erratic image. At times it looked very strong, but other sequences came across with weaker clarity. The scenes that took place in the reality setting of the ďpresentĒ seemed best, but both future sequences and some of the fantasy areas more often suffered from some issues. For the most part, sharpness seemed fine, as much of the movie appeared distinct and detailed. However, some wide shots displayed moderate softness. Moirť effects and jagged edges caused no concerns, and I detected no signs of any edge enhancement.

As with the first movie, print flaws were a more substantial issue. Though not as heavy as those seen during Adventure, the various defects still caused some distractions. Various examples of grit, specks, and a few instances of nicks and streaks appeared at times, and a little light grain showed up as well. Again, these werenít as bad as those during the first flick, and many of them seemed to result from the cheap special effects shots. Not only did those look bad, but also they displayed quite a lot of debris and dirt. Overall, Journey could have been messier, but it also could have been much cleaner.

As with other aspects of the film, colors seemed erratic. At times they came across as nicely vibrant and distinct, but they could also appear murky and heavy. Colored lighting fared especially poorly, as shots with strong reds and blues seemed thick and muddy. Outside of those situations, the hues were more accurate, but they still showed some variations. Black levels were acceptably deep and dense, though they seemed slightly drab at times, and shadow detail was reasonably clear but a bit opaque on occasion. In the end, Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey was a decent but unspectacular visual experience.

Much more impressive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Journey. Though it predates the theatrical availability of common digital formats like Dolby Digital and DTS, this mix sounded like a true five-channel piece, as it included fairly liberal use of all the channels at times. Though comedies usually offer a heavy forward bias, Journey had enough fantasy elements to broaden its sonic horizons, and the result was a nice soundfield that showed a fine environment. Music featured solid stereo separation and presence, while effects cropped up cleanly on the sides. The audio blended together cleanly and elements moved neatly from side to side.

Surround usage seemed surprisingly strong. Quite a lot of elements cropped up in the rear. In addition to some reinforcement of music, I heard many kinds of effects, and to my surprise, some distinct isolated elements appeared. For the most part, the mix remained oriented toward the forward spectrum, but the rear channels added a fairly substantial amount of information and made this a quite active and engaging soundtrack.

Audio quality showed some limitations but generally seemed good. At times speech came across as somewhat rough; the early shots in the future betrayed some thin tones that could make the lines hard to understand. However, most dialogue seemed acceptably distinct and natural, and I heard no problems related to edginess. Effects also appeared clean and accurate for the most part, though I detected some mildly shrill and harsh qualities to a few of the louder elements. Nonetheless, these offered some good low-end response; for example, hell provided a very deep and rich rumble. Music showed acceptable dynamics as well, as the score came across as fairly bright and clear with moderate bass response. Overall, Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey wonít become your demo disc, but for a decade-old comedy, the soundtrack seemed to be very solid.

A few supplements round out the DVD. In addition to both the filmís teaser and theatrical trailers - which seemed virtually identical - we get a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. Created concurrent with the movieís release, this six-minute and 35-second piece offers the standard mix of movie clips, shots from the set, and interview snippets. In the latter category, we hear from actors Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter recorded together as well as director Peter Hewitt, visual effects supervisor Greg MacMurray, and actors William Sadler and George Carlin. Though some decent snippets from the shoot appear, overall this is little more than a glorified trailer. It provides a brief primer about the world of Bill and Ted, but thatís it; donít expect anything else from it.

Despite the paucity of extras, Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey is a nice enough package, largely due to its extremely low list price. The movie itself is an inconsistent piece, but it offers some entertaining moments and seems like a better film than its precursor. As for the DVD, picture qualityís acceptable, while the soundtrack appears quite good. The supplements are sparse, but with a retail cost of only $14.95, those bits are gravy. Fans of the Bill and Ted flicks will definitely be pleased with this release.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5454 Stars Number of Votes: 33
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