Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Review By: Gringo

The original Excellent Adventure starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. respectively was a huge success. And rightly so. It was funny, it was original and it was of course the movie which had a guy acting as Sigmund Freud holding a corn dog and asking in an over-done Austrian accent "What is a geek?". It also spawned the cartoon Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, which were all right for Saturday morning entertainment. At least they were streets ahead (and avenues!) of the Back to the Future cartoon. That just plain sucked. Anyway, at the end of the first movie starring Bill and Ted, it looked liked the world was destined for happy times. Their band Wyld Stallyns would apparently go on to bring about world peace, cure a million and one diseases and lead to some really bad futuristic fashion disasters. Rufus, the Stallyns' advisor from the future, wore most of those clothing calamities in the first movie. After people like Abraham Lincoln and Socrates had helped the dense duo pass their History exam, it looked like everything was going to work out fine for Bill and Ted. Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Not only did the fashion disasters continue, but it appears that the path to world peace via the Stallyn's music was not an even one. How do I know this? I am a super spy! Also, I saw the sequel to the first movie. The title alone gives away a hint that things aren't going to be as happy-fun-special for Bill and Ted, being called as it is Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. You may remember back in the day that 'bogus' used to be what all the cool kids used as a way of describing something that wasn't really very good. So what do the hapless musical duo find themselves doing this time round? In the future a very large old man called De Nomolos is intent on taking over the world. Of course, Bill and Ted as we know rule the future world with an iron fist. De Nomolos realises the only way to change this is to kill the present day Bill and Ted. Kill death! So he sends two evil robots to cause mayhem and carry out his plan. Rufus turns up, wearing stupid clothing. There you have the plot in a nutshell. Well, it's not really a nutshell, being as it is a page of text. But you can pretend it's a nutshell. I won't tell anyone.

But what about the movie, Gringo? I hear you shouting this. What about the damn movie? Well, I'll tell all three of you. The movie's all right, and it's certainly as funny as the original, if completely different. I like the way they - whoever 'they' are meant to be, I have no idea. Hollywood producers, I suppose - didn't cop out and just rehash the first plot, having the duo time travelling once again. Instead, this movie takes in a visit to the afterlife (Heaven and Hell), cross-dressing men and Bill's mother Missy generally being something of a whore. It's all humorous and entertaining stuff, and was certainly worth the admission price of zero that I paid to watch it on television. But Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey doesn't really get going - or incredibly enjoyable - until a certain character comes along. I am of course talking about William Sadler's greatest role (ever!). The guy who tells a crowd of screaming teenagers to "get down with your bad selves". The same person who interrupts a charades game in Heaven with his completely irrelevant guess "Butch and Sundance: The Early Years." I am of course talking about his role in this movie as the Grim Reaper.

Bill and Ted first meet the Reaper when they are killed by their evil robot counterparts. At first, Death seems like something of an ominous figure, kind of like you'd expect. But then the duo decides to 'Melvin' him. Now, it's probably due to my British-ness that I didn't know what a Melvin was at the time this movie came out. I still don't really know. All I can deduce is that it involves moving your hand in a grabbing motion towards someone's crotch area and pulling at something. Most bizarre. Whatever it does, it seems to throw Death off the scent of doing what he does best, as instead he pulls a comical face and looks like he's in a lot of pain. A little later, old Grim meets up with Bill and Ted again, and this time they want to live again. So Death challenges them to a game, which if they win will give them their lives back. What do they choose? What any self-respecting figurehead of the afterlife would choose; Battleships. It doesn't get very far into the game before it's clear the Stallyns have the upper hand. With a face like a cross between a snarl and utter contempt, Death tells the duo they've scored "A hit. You have sunk my battleship."

So Bill and Ted are off back to Earth. Except, no, they're not. If his appearance so far hadn't inspired greatness, Death's next comment is the beginning of his character becoming the best part of the whole damn movie. Shiftily he darts his eyes from side to side then meekly says, "Best three out of five". When Bill and Ted say "No way!" in their docile accents, angered at the possibility of a re-match, the Grim Reaper gets much more threatening and ominously says "Yes way." Why is this character so excellent? Because this is a guy who manages to undergo a complete transformation of personality, who has a cracking sense of humour and who manages to steal every single scene he's in. Whilst Bill and Ted are sweating about the possibility that they might be stuck in Hell for all eternity, and the world they knew might be over-run by a guy called Chuck De Nomolos, all Death's bothered about is beating the duo. This takes in several games ranging from Clue to Twister and electronic football. It's that kind of petty, competitive spirit that makes him such a fantastic character. Who gives a toss about the fate of the world when all it takes to beat two Californian dunces is for the Twister dial to land on left-hand-blue? Not the Grim Reaper, that's for sure!

However, Death's persistence doesn't pay off, and it's in the make-or-break game of Twister that his losing streak reaches its conclusion. After shoving his foot in Bill's face, a final spin and a right-foot-green leaves the Reaper lying in an exhausted heap on the floor. Even better for the Stallyns, because they defeated him, Death has to follow them around and do their bidding for as long as they want. From the start Bill and Ted try to make their new best friend feel at ease, telling him that he played all the games very well. Death's response? He's still a bitter character at this point and shouts "don't patronise me" before following the duo on their way to save the world, get back with their girlfriends from the medieval era and carry a scythe around in every single scene. Where do you go when you need the very best help? Why, Heaven of course! It's there that Death makes the aforementioned foolish guess at charades and introduces Bill and Ted to Station, a bizarre Martian scientist who is the only one capable of building robots that can defeat De Nomolos' creations. See how friendly Death is? Don't fear the Reaper.

Death really does have the greatest scenes in this movie. Amongst the best ones are when he dresses up as a lady to gain entrance to Heaven, spends a while comparing scythes at a hardware store, and even gets to boogie on down (I couldn't think of a better phrase) in the movie's grand final, a Battle of the Bands concert. For you see, De Nomolos - like all cinematic bad guys - gets defeated, and Bill and Ted go on to win the concert, thus saving humanity and ensuring bad fashion will be a major requirement in the future. The duo travel through time for intensive guitar training, so finally Wyld Stallyns can play decent music. Except the only song we hear is KISS' God Gave Rock N' Roll To You, and it's performed by KISS too. Bizarre! Anyway, the point is that Death, realising that collecting dead people isn't much fun, joins the band as its bass player. The same guy who said "don't overlook my butt, I work out all the time. And reaping burns a lot of calories" now plays a mean bass and completely lets himself go, shaking and singing in front of a more than grateful crowd.

One very important result of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey being made was the chart-busting, music-making, unbeatable Reaper Rap! Little did I know the first time I heard it that William Sadler composed it! That man gets everywhere! The rap is essentially a condensed version of the movie, with various quotes from characters explaining the story, all to a hip-hop, bip-bop, zoop-doop soundtrack. I'm sorry. I promise never to use the phrase 'hip-hop, bip-bop, zoop-doop' again. But the Reaper Rap is something to be heard! Oh, yes! You get to hear De Nomolos grooving along to music, a few choice quotes from Bill and Ted and some wacky guitar playing. It even includes Death's classic line "they Melvined me". And no, I still don't know what or who a Melvin is. If you can let me know, there's a prize in it for you. By prize I do, of course, mean absolutely nothing. Now, as you go on your merry way into the ether of the 'net, remember the Grim Reaper's important advice; "You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you'll dance with the reaper." It'll make you think twice before performing a Melvin on someone. Whatever one of those is.

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