With the third set to arrive this year, Tom Jolliffe looks back at the first two Bill & Ted films…
I remember when Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out and took the world by storm. I first saw it on video and in the early 90’s it would be a film I’d watching at least once per annum. The sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey came a couple of years later, and was one I ventured to the big screen to see, with bated breath and anticipation. The films are iconic, peak nostalgia fodder and for a long, long…long time we’ve been hearing about the possibility of a third film. It was finally announced, and the trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music dropped this week, confirming the most triumphant return of Bill S Preston Esq, and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. If the initial trailer doesn’t particularly promise anything ground breaking, it certainly promises an epic dose of light hearted, gleefully silly nostalgia. It also gives you the generation of original Bill and Ted fans the realisation that we are getting old.
So what made Bill and Ted such an endearing pair? Their first (excellent) adventure saw them discover a time machine in a phone box. Okay, Brits might have said that Doctor Who has been doing that for years, but when watching this as a youngster that whole aspect just fascinated me. To the point that when ‘playing’ Bill and Ted with friends we’d be twatting around in phone booths like idiots pretending we were travelling back in time. It was silly and surreal, with the titular characters doing their best to pass a history exam, the result of which would be key to them fulfilling their destiny of becoming world saving musicians in the future. Other films have tried to be this silly and not quite managed it, or if you look at something like Hot Tub Time Machine, the concept was secondary to tawdry humour. Bill and Ted has a lot of humour but it’s also able to be funny without lazily resorting to tired and bawdy sex/bodily function humour (when that’s done right it’s funny, but some films push that angle without much wit). Bill and Ted just have masses of charm and that goes a long way.
Bill and Ted might be dim but they’re effortlessly likeable and ultimately, unwavouringly on the side of good. Played with great chemistry by Alex Winter and that guy that everyone still loves, Mr Keanu Reeves. From their frequent air guitar bursts to their hair brained musings and unique vernacular, they’re an endearing pair of heroes. This was an era of engaging double acts, some of whom were successful enough to spawn sequels. Wayne’s World, a spinoff from SNL, was another fine example with a couple of enjoyable films. Whilst Wayne’s World 2 essentially repeated the formula without much difference (though I love it), Bill and Ted’s second adventure both repeated the elements of the first, but took things beyond the living realm and into the beyond, expanding the surrealism of the comedy even further.
Bogus Journey might not have gone down too well with critics, and it’s certainly not as fresh as Excellent Adventure was, but the battles with Death, the Devil and encounters in heaven all add to the enjoyably farcical nature of it all. What the films are, with little regard for logic (paah, who needs it), is a concentrated shot of relentless fun. I love Bogus Journey. I also love the soundtrack (who doesn’t love hearing Battle Stations by Winger? Or Steve Vai…hello?). Having recently rewatched both again, they still hold up very well and they’re the most purist escapism you can find. The reaction to the trailer for Face The Music has been a little contentious I guess. There’s a feeling that it’s underwhelming, laboured and I’ve seen a few people counter to naysayers with a well made point…in a year that’s frankly been a bit shit for many reasons, this slice of silly, escapist, warming nostalgia might just be a temporary shot in the arm to take us away from everything. People aren’t making films like this any more. There aren’t too many comedies coming on the horizon, and certainly not with a kind of goofy charm that characters like Bill and Ted could bring. Will it work with them both in their 50’s? Who knows, but I’m certainly looking forward to Winter and Reeves getting back into the roles.
One thing that should be said is, that there were always some enjoyable supporting turns in the first two films. William Sadler will of course be returning as ‘the Reaper.’ A man, victim of an in film gag known as a ‘Melvin (wedgie)’ that caused a spate of Melvins in my primary school upon the films release. One absentee however, whose presence will certainly be missed is the late great George Carlin as the inimitable Rufus. Hopefully some reference/homage to him will be included. So much of those first two films inspired aspects of my childhood, from quoting dialogue, Melvins, to contributing to a desire to learn the guitar. Above all the films show that even the most unlikely folk could be destined for great things, which I suppose is good inspiration for us all.
Are you looking forward to Bill and Ted Face The Music? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on our Twitter page @flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out on DVD/VOD around the world and several releases due in 2020/21, including The Witches Of Amityville Academy (starring Emmy winner, Kira Reed Lorsch), Tooth Fairy: The Root of Evil and the star studded action film, Renegades. Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.