Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" - Better Than The Real Thing: December 7, 2010


As an an old fogie, all of 31 years old at the time of this writing, I feel it is my right to talk about the good old days, aka time before the internet, and you have to humor me just like you would any other old man. See, before the interweb the film nerds had to rely on magazines, newpapers and good old secondhand information for whatever "up-to-date" news they could get. Like a lot of my old school brethren I grew up reading Fangoria and its sister publication Starlog a lot. In the pages of both they would have future, in-the-works films listed in a little section, either near the front or the back of the mag. After the summer of 1989 one such in-development project caught my pre-teen eye: Bill and Ted Go To Hell

God, I wish they could have kept that title. Maybe people would give more credit to this sequel which, obviously based on the series you're reading right now, is better than the original film. Now, the first film still has its charms. My GF had never seen it before, so we watched it recently. Once you get over the immediate innanity of the whole scenario it's a hell of a giddy little movie. It's downright charming in its optimism and spirit, much like vintage Star Trek. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if series' creators Mathseon and Solomon were ST fans. The inital scenes with Death in BJ would point to as much.

But all of the missteps in the first film feel smoothed out by the time you get to the second and what you're left with is an even more off-the-wall and ambitious comedy. In the one it is even mroe fun to see Winters and Reeves play bill and Ted and their Evil counterparts. Plus, while we still get the legendary George Carlin, we also get probably one of the funniest characters ever in the form of William Sadler's Death. god I wish this guy got more comedy work like this. Death just kills in this movie and every moment Sadler has is not wasted. Whether it's his Bergman-esque delivery or his incredible facial tics and physical comedy, Sadler is on 100%.

The plot is also so much more nuanced than the original film. Watching EA again I can't help but feel how incomplete so much of the film is. It could be just the fact that it is an 80s film, but the fact that the bulk of the historical figures are picked up in a montage just feels like a cheat. Plus, when not in montage mode, of which the majority of the film takes place, the editing is lazy and poorly placed. If it wasn't for the performances (particularly the leads and Terry Camilleri's spot-on Napoleon) so much of the film wouldn't work.

Even the soundtrack is pretty weak. However, the second film doesn't have anything as transcendentally bravura as this track in it. Too bad Nuno Bettencourt wouldn't do anything half as fun ever again:

Barring that, the soundtrack is fucking amazing. Yeah, Slaughter kinda blows, but the track is one of their better ones. Plus you've got amazing songs by Primus, Faith No More, Megadeth, King's X.

Staging, production design, editing, scriptwritng, performances; all of them have improved by the time you get to BJ. Hell is quite amazing, with its multiple levels and personal hell sequences. Heaven is most triumphant with its Powell-Pressburgers inspired design. I have to be in a particular mood to watch the first film. Otherwise I just skip and look for the genius moments with Napoleon in San Dimas, or the great throwaway scenes with Al Leong or the introduction of Bill and Ted to Socrates (Dust. Wind. Dude.) But I can throw on Bogus Journey any time and it all works. Comedy may be subjective but quality filmmaking isn't.


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