Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The First Two Bill & Ted Movies Are Charming, Funny and, Yes, Most Excellent


Woah, something new! I’m gonna try something different here. For the first time ever, I'll be reviewing two movies in one review. Will it work? We shall find out!

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey are downright delightful. That isn’t exactly a hot take, but in preparing the recent release of Bill & Ted Face the Music, everybody seems to be appreciating just how enjoyable these movies are. This is especially true for total newbies to the franchise like yours truly. While my 7th grade English teacher was a big enough Bill & Ted fan to have quotes from the films plastered all over the walls (we even watched the Excellent Adventure trailer on our first day of class), up to this point, I haven’t enjoyed the most non-heinous pleasures of these features.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure introduces the titular leads (Bill is played by Alex Winter and Ted is played by Keanu Reeves) as a couple of High School airheads who need to get an A+ on their history assignment. Otherwise, they’re gonna flunk the class. Worse, Ted’s dad has plans to ship off Ted to military academy if he fails. They’ll now have to use a time-traveling telephone booth (no, not that one). Bogus Journey takes things to an extra weird level as Bill & Ted are murdered by robot doppelgangers. In a pursuit to stop the evil plot of their clones, Bill & Ted must navigate Hell, Heaven and Death (William Sadler) himself.

You could never accuse the first two Bill & Ted movies of being carbon-copies of each other. However, across the two films, they do manage to bring a delightful wholesome energy that proves so charming. Bill & Ted’s whole philosophy as a duo is “Be excellent to each other” and that’s reflected in how they manage to unite people from across history and even the cosmos in the pursuit of their goals. Billy the Kid and Socrates aren’t two historical figures you’d imagine rubbing shoulders with one another. But on a quest with Bill & Ted, they become fast friends whose antics prove a testament to the duos unifying nature as well as most amusing in their own right.

The two films also have imagination to spare, particularly Bogus Journey. This sequel frequently feels like a whole bunch of different ideas for a Bill & Ted sequel smashed into one movie. That results in something that’s messier than Excellent Adventure. However, the conviction with which Bogus Journey just throws itself into over-the-top scenarios compensates for its ramshackle nature. Does Bill & Ted’s ability as ghosts to possess living people end up mattering to the plot? Nope. It’s just a digression. But the script and especially the performers throw themselves in 110% into this concept to the point that it becomes comedically indispensable.

Helping to make the scattershot nature of Bogus Journey work is that, like its predecessor, the movie looks sharp on a technical level. Some visual effects elements haven’t aged well, sure, (like Bill’s clearly fake detached head when Ted is holding it in Bogus Journey). For the most part, though, the two films put a lot more effort into pleasing-looking costumes and period-era sets than you’d expect from such endearingly silly productions. Special props to the production design in the scenes set in various rooms of Hell in Bogus Journey. These locations make use of such warped, almost expressionistic, lines, no bed, couch or wall has a straight line. Everything looks askew and it makes for an appropriately unsettling backdrop for Bill & Ted’s hellish encounters.

Then, of course, there’s the cast of these two films, which hinges heavily on the performances of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. Thirty years after Excellent Adventure debuted and became a sleeper hit, what more can be said about their exceptional chemistry? These two actors just get along so well with each other on-screen that you instantly buy the friendship between Bill & Ted. Both of them, particularly Reeves, also work quite nicely at comedically selling the constant bewilderment of these two characters. Reeves and Winter are surrounded by a bunch of memorable supporting performances but my personal favorite is William Sadler as Death. He’s just a riot portraying Death as a composed figure who resigns himself to being an ally to these two adolescent knuckleheads. Even Death can become a buddy in the endearing and most excellent world of Bill & Ted.

No comments:

Post a Comment