Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

BILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991)

Let’s be honest: you have to include Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey as a time travel movie merely on a technicality. Still, there’s a lot to discuss on the subject. After their first adventure of excellence, Bill & Ted are now pursued by two robot versions of themselves (from the future, so count it) and murdered. This is the story of them attempting to escape from the afterlife, which manages to involve Satan, God, the Grim Reaper, and what the hell, some aliens. Then there’s a little more time travel. Damn.

THE STORY:
This was a bit of a polarizing sequel, but I’ll tell you right now that I’m all for it. It’s a little cluttered, to be sure. Bill & Ted were born out of improvisational theater, and if this were being performed onstage, I think the eye rolls would be happening right around the time the aliens showed up. But, if you “Yes, And…” the movie’s crazy (and often brilliant) ideas all the way to the end, it’s not bad. I wondered as a kid where all the time travel was, but I was a stupid kid; Bill & Ted are made to be having all sorts of weird adventures, logic be damned.

From left to right: What, The, Hell.

If Bill & Ted had had more installments, I think it would have become fairly obvious that this wasn’t a time travel franchise, but you know how audiences are: they want the same movie over again. As psyched as I’d be for Bill & Ted Are Microscopic, Bill & Ted in Space, and Bill & Ted Do Their Taxes, your average moviegoer was probably expecting Bill & Ted Have a Similarly Excellent Adventure. Oh, wait, actually, they do rip off one scene from the original. And I don’t like it.

This guy who looks like Chevy Chase’s molesty uncle is De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), a bad guy from the future who wants to kill Bill & Ted. At the film’s finale, they do the same “let’s remember to leave items for our past selves” number, except this time there’s a bad guy who can also use time travel to his advantage. I guess… I guess that’s neat, but it’s the most “rehashed from the original” scene in the movie, and I could have done without it, especially when it masquerades as a climactic ending.

What’s interesting in this film is that the villain wants to stop Bill & Ted from releasing their universe-changing albums, but because we operate on immutable timeline rules, we already know he can’t succeed… right? When De Nomolos argues that time will tell, Rufus (George Carlin) calmly says, “Time has told.”

“Aww, did you think we were on Back to the Future rules? That’s cute. You should read up on your timelines.”

This means that De Nomolos’s failure must already be in the history books, which De Nomolos must have read, but, you know, hubris, I guess?

There’s also some time travel used so that Bill & Ted can take 16 months of guitar lessons, returning to the exact time they left. I’m pretty sure this goes against what Rufus says about how the clock is always ticking in San Dimas and Ted needs to wind his watch, but that was always a cheap screenwriter gimmick anyway. For all we know, Rufus just said it to keep the boys on task.

THE ACTING:
Alex & Keanu are at their best once again. But we can talk about William Sadler as the Grim Reaper.

I always found him a little too goofy for a Bill & Ted movie, like maybe he was the character for the kids, always making wacky faces and hamming it up. This time around, though, I appreciated him, if only for the absurdity of a metal band having the actual Grim Reaper on stage and he’s disappointingly… chipper. It almost hearkens back to the original, when everybody thinks the historical figures are simply guys in costumes. But this is very much the being they call Death.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
About the same as the first movie, though I was very impressed by the practical effects even more. It took me a long time to realize that there was no green screen or filter on the spirits of Bill & Ted; they just gave them gray versions of their outfits and painted up their faces.

And slipped them some peyote?

The sets are amazing, the puppets are pretty cool, the costumes and makeup are fine. It all gets a pass. Oh, wait, there’s some goofy ripple ghost bullshit.

Incoming timecop!

OTHER STUFF:

  • Is there another movie about robot assassins from the future? I feel like there is. Maybe I made that up.
  • I was amazed to learn in the credits that the good robot versions of Bill & Ted were played by Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers and Bruno “Pop N’ Taco” Falcon, who also worked on Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo as an actor (Shrimp was Turbo!) and a choreographer.
  • No, seriously, like a big guy with an accent… right? He was naked at the beginning? Did I dream this? If you’ve seen the movie I’m thinking of, let me know.

I’M FRIENDS WITH A GUY IN THIS:
In lieu of a “None of This Makes Any Sense!” Moment, please enjoy an interview with Cloud Morris, a comedian friend of mine who was an extra during the Battle of the Bands scene, back when the movie was called Bill & Ted Go to Hell. A Cinema 52 exclusive! Or something.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is a creative little sequel. Maybe it could have been better, but not by being another time travel movie. There are rumors that there will be a third installment, about Bill & Ted in a retirement home or something, and they still haven’t finished their album. It seems like there’s going to be some time travel, but I really hope they can get past that. On immutable rules, isn’t it impossible for them to be old without having… agh, I hate movie rumors, we’ll see when it comes out. For now, the second movie isn’t bad and I hope future Bill & Ted directors realize this.

NEXT WEEK:
The Lake House (2006), Il Mare (2000)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.