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BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT COLLECTION

            

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: If putting the names ‘Bill’ and ‘Ted’ together brings to mind goofy historical comedy, then you are probably a fan of the movie that started Keanu Reeves’ trajectory toward stardom and made Alex Winter, well, a trivia question. The Shout! Factory has released both of the ‘Bill & Ted’ movies in a new Blu-ray set, ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Collection,’ so here are my Deseret News reviews from, respectively, Feb. 17, 1989, and July 19, 1991.

“BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE” is misnamed, of course — “Bill and Ted’s Mediocre Adventure” would have been more appropriate.

What we have here is “Time Bandits” meets the Valley Boys, whose use of the words “excellent,” “totally” and “dude” are only the beginning of just how airheaded our heroes really are.

Bill (Alexander Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are the biggest dunderheads to ever flunk a class in the California education system, and they are on the verge of failing their history class.

If that happens, Ted will be exiled to a military college in Alaska, so the boys decide to abandon their rock band aspirations for the time being and hit the books. Their idea of study is to hang out at the Circle K and ask passersby history questions.

But will they really pass the class thinking Joan of Arc is related to the Bible’s Noah or that Marco Polo is a water sport? Probably not.

So out of the 27th century pops Rufus (George Carlin), with a phone-booth time machine (shades of “Dr. Who”) that will take the boys into the past for a first-hand education with historical giants around the world.

     

George Carlin, left, Alex Winter, Keanu Reeve, 'Excellent Adv.'

In the process Bill and Ted “kidnap” Socrates, Joan of Arc, Billy the Kid, Abe Lincoln, Beethoven and Freud, to bring them back home for a live show that will prove to their history teacher that they know their history, dude.

The film’s big comic finish takes place in a mall, where the historical figures feed on shakes and run up and down escalators.

If this description appeals, you may want to take a chance despite my low rating for this picture, but otherwise you should be warned that this is silliness to the max, and a more juvenile film is not likely to come along until the summer sillies go into full swing.

Winter and Reeves are quite charming in their enthusiastic deadhead characterizations, and the special effects are excellent. There are also some funny moments as the boys meet the historical characters.

But ultimately the script runs out of inventiveness and becomes only intermittently amusing.

“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is rated PG for some comic violence and profanity.

"BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY" isn't exactly bogus but it's hardly an excellent adventure.

What it is, is silly, sophomoric and very weird. Or, in Bill and Ted's vocabulary, it's lame, scorched and egregious.

Yet, somehow, on the whole it's better than "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," with a few moments that are riotously funny. (And certainly with better special effects.)

That is not meant to be a recommendation to non-Bill-and-Ted fans, however.

There's still trouble down at the Circle K in this sequel, with a story that is extremely convoluted but basically has our valley-speak heroes (again played as dopey, innocent deadheads by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) being killed by their evil robot twins, whereupon they meet the Grim Reaper (William Sadler, in a scene-stealing role) and go on a journey through heaven and hell.

The afterlife sequences are by far the most inventive, reaching a hilarious peak with a sendup of, of all things, Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." In that film, a knight returning from the Crusades plays a game of chess with Death. Here, Bill and Ted play a variety of games with the Grim Reaper, including Battleship, Clue and Twister.

     

Death (WIlliam Sadler) plays Twister with Bill (Alex Winter) in the comedy sequel 'Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.'

Some other funny bits are Bill's stepmother Misty (again played by Amy Stock-Poynton) divorcing his father and marrying Ted's, a scene where Ted's father and his partner are possessed by Bill and Ted, and a throwaway gag that has the Grim Reaper saying to a smoker, "See you real soon."

But as the film lurches into its final third — with two troll-like Martians helping Bill and Ted win the Battle of the Bands with a pair of makeshift good robots to battle the evil robots — it gets complex, confusing and much less funny.

In other words, despite some hysterical moments, this film, like its predecessor, wears out its welcome long before it's over. (It's also rather startling how much this film, at times, resembles "Terminator 2: Judgment Day.")

Still, Bill-and-Ted fans — and fans of the "Saturday Night Live" version, Wayne and Garth on "Wayne's World" — will doubtless find this a totally non-heinous, bodacious time and feel most un-Melvined.

Be excellent to each other, dudes.

"Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is rated PG for comic violence, a couple of profanities and a vulgar remark or two.