Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey ★★★

I know conventional wisdom holds that Excellent Adventure is the better of the Bill & Ted movies, but I heartily dissent with that consensus. There is an actual narrative here, rather than a few gags stretched to an hour and a half. There's still little in the way of character development, admittedly, but at least there's more to the events than changing setting every few minutes just to set up a lazy fish-out-of-water gag.

My favorite performance in either of the two movies is William Sadler's Grim Reaper in this. Yes, it's hammy (especially in the finale), but he seems to be having so much fun that it's contagious. When my time comes, I hope I have the presence of mind to chat up Death about how he feels about this portrayal. I like to think he digs it, though I don't know what difference it really makes. Or, for that matter, why I'm not similarly curious what Socrates or President Lincoln think about their portrayals in the other movie.

Bogus Journey moves along at a brisk clip, which rescues it from some of its stumbling. There are some sequences (such as the boys' personal Hells) that are almost interesting, but don't really go anywhere. They give way quickly enough to the next bit, though, and this keeps us from fixating too much on how much a waste of time the previous four or five minutes were.

Aside from glossing over the weaker aspects of the narrative, the pacing also benefits the handful of surprises; no sooner do we shift from one idea to the next than the movie throws something unexpected at us. (Where else are you going to see a mugging on the way into Heaven?) The upshot is that it's easier to remain interested and focused throughout this sequel than it is in the meandering first movie.

I was greatly disappointed to be reminded that not only does Bogus Journey repeat the homophobic slur used in Excellent Adventure, but it's said twice this time. The fact it's used by Evil Bill & Evil Ted one time, and said by Ted about the Devil the other time, does not lessen the severity. Audiences in 1991 were meant to laugh at the mere use of the word and not to connect it with any kind of value judgment about it being spoken by or about evil people.

One last note: I always got a kick out of the fact that Bill and Ted sit around and watch Star Trek while they're sulking. "Arena" is one of my favorite episodes, and it's entertaining to me that it's the episode that keeps popping up in movies. It's referenced twice in Paul, for instance, which I just re-watched a few nights ago. It's the episode that Ben Stiller watches on his iPod in Tropic Thunder, and if I'm not mistaken, it plays on a TV in the opening of Coneheads, too.

Anyway, during the end credits I caught that they actually credited William Shatner for playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Shatner also received a "special thanks" acknowledgment. Since Shatner is credited for playing Kirk, I wonder if that means that Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey is "canon"? I don't know if anyone has posited this theory, but if not, I want to be the one to put it on the table: They weren't watching an episode of the TV series from the 1960's, but instead were watching a recording of Captain Kirk's adventure from the 23rd Century, made possible by their time traveling abilities.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Re-Ranked on My Flickchart (#860/1620)

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey > National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < The World Is Not Enough --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < Memphis Belle --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < Sunshine Cleaning --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < Monsters vs. Aliens --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < The King's Speech --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < Kinsey --> #810
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey > Opera --> #803
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey < The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug --> #803
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey > Bad Boys --> #801
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey > Tummy Trouble --> #801

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey was re-ranked on my Flickchart to #801/1620