The Films (4/5 - (Excellent Adventure), 4/5 - (Bogus Journey))
Shout! Factory continues their excellent Shout! Select line by turning out a long overdue special edition release of both Bill & Ted films. The first film in the 2 film sequence was released on Blu-ray roughly 3 years ago by Fox/MGM, but the studio have left Bogus Journey unreleased since that time. Shout! Factory those purveyors of pop culture archaeology have seen fit through their recent Shout! Select line to acquire both films, and not only release them to Blu, but fill up each disc with an excellent slate of extras.
I was 7 in 1989 when Bill and Tedís Excellent Adventure opened in theaters, and I remember being taken immediately by the marketing. I cannot remember why, but the thought of something so domestic as a phone booth, and a pair of people so average traveling through time probably had something to do with it. The 80's were a huge period for big budget science fiction and fantasy. It seemed that between the post Star Wars boom of the late 70's, Mad Max/The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian, and the Terminator and their various spinoffs, sequels, and knock-offs there was a lot of the genre to see in that decade. Bill and Ted came late in the decade as a sort of satiric nod, not just to the decade in cinema, but culture as a whole.
The 2 main characters were in a band Wyld Stallyns that was a huge takeoff from the hair metal explosion that happened in the latter portion of the decade. The film was bright and colorful like the decade itself, and used the fashions of the time even in the more futuristic portions, showing that a future based on Bill & Ted would be in debt to late 80's culture. I've always said the best sci-fi is a reflection of the culture that creates it, but Bill and Ted is rarely viewed as anything other than as anything other than a dumb 80's pop film, when it is excellent science fiction satire.
The film stars Keanu Reeves (The Watcher), Alex Winter (Freaked) as Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves). A pair of high school students who aspire to make their heavy metal band Wyld Stallyns the next big thing. Unfortunately for the pair, they are lousy as music, and academics. If they don't pass their history project Ted's military Father will send him to an Alaskan military academy breaking the pair up, ending the band, and destroying their destiny. Their destiny apparently is to make Wyld Stallyns music, which then becomes the basis for a future utopian society. One of the leaders of that society Rufus (George Carlin) goes back to the 80's with a Time Travel equipped phone booth, and allows them its use in order to help pass their history project. The duo go through time collecting historical figures, and bring them back to their time for their project.
Excellent Adventure is a lot of fun. Like the earlier in the decade Terry Gilliam classic Time Bandits it manages to hit a lot of time periods in a short period of time, and does so without sacrificing the flow of the film. The performances from the main players are excellent. There is an excellent chemistry between Reeve and Winter that cannot be denied, that continues on into the next film.
Bill and Tedís Bogus Journey was created 2 years later in 1991. The first firm was somewhat a hit, had spawned TV shows, video games, and more, so a sequel was definitely going to happen. The characters were well loved, and Winter and Reeves chemistry as previously mentioned was too good not to continue on.
The sequel continues on with the idea that Bill, Ted, and Wild Stallyns are the pillars of a future society whose whole basis is their music. However, they have not created it yet, and in fact are still lousy musicians , and live in a crappy apartment, and work at a nacho stand. Into this comes Chuck De Nomolos former mentor to George Carlin's Rufus character, as a villainous fellow who hates the utopian society built around the Stallyns music. He has decided that rather then live in this world, he will travel back, and kill the duo before their influence can be felt. It is then up to Bill and Ted to defeat Death to regain their lives, traverse the afterlife for the greatest scientific beings ever to exist, save their loves, and futures.
I remember being drastically disappointed when watching Bogus Journey in theaters in 1991, so much so that I never bothered revisiting the film except for maybe a few scenes on TV over the years. I think at the time I just wanted a simple rehash of the first film, more time travel, less everything else. The series creators, of course, did not want that, and in fact wanted to seemingly build a franchise. Now with the Blu-ray in hand, I watched the film for the first time in decades, and found that it was as good if not better than the original. It was short, sweet, and fun. I found myself laughing out loud during the film, and was over just as I getting on board with the film leaving me wanting more.
Audio/Video (4/5, 3.5/5)
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was previously released to Blu by MGM/Fox and the transfer looks mostly (if not entirely identical) to what is on display here. Excellent Adventure is a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded 1080p transfer while Bogus Journey is the same, but 1:85:1. Both transfers look quite solid, with solid detail, decent colors, and mostly good grain structure. Both films are quite a bit soft at times, but this is mostly probably from the source material then anything else.
The audio is presented in 2 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks both in English (optional English subs are available). Both films sound quite good with dialogue and score coming through nicely, and no issues to nitpick on either.
Shout! Factory are masters of creating extra features, and they have really given the lavish treatment to their release of the Bill and Ted films. Both films come with a pair of commentary tracks. We also are treated to film specific making of docs featuring all the principals behind the film. There is an interview with Steve Vai, an archival making of doc, and much more.
The Bill and Ted films are an excellent slice of 80's sci-fi satire that hold up to this day. Shout! Select has done a wonderful job bringing both to Blu-ray with extensive extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.