Excellent Adventures in Facing the Music: Bill and Ted’s Most Triumphant Franchise Review

Julien Neaves – Editor

It took almost 30 years but fans are finally getting a third instalment to the wacky science fiction comedy franchise Bill and Ted. But it makes sense with star Keanu Reeves (the eponymous Ted “Theodore” Logan) experiencing a popularity Renaissance of late (or Keanussance if you will) with his hugely popular John Wick films, comedic appearances in Toy Story 4 and Always Be My Maybe, and the announcement he will be returning for a fourth Matrix film. And seriously, I could not be happier for him.

The new Bill and Ted film reunites Reeves  with co-stars Alex Winter (William “Bill” S. Preston Esq.) and William Sadler (Death) and they will be joined by fresh face Brigitte Lundy-Paine and genre queen Samara Weaving as Bill and Ted’s daughters Billie and Thea respectively.

BILL: Hey daughters. You guys look just like your moms. They were princesses. And babes. Princess babes. Not saying you guys are babes. And, um, not saying you’re NOT babes. Umm, Ted. A little help here. TED: You’re on your own dude

The new film is a lot of fun but I am not here to review it alone. No dude. I am going to take you back. Way back. Back into time. We are going to be retro-reviewing both previous films as well as the animated series and short lived live action series (yes, they made one of those). So jump in your phone booth, dial SPOILER ALERT and let’s get bodacious!

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Hey! Historical dude. Get in the phone booth. Hasta pronto!

This is it folks. The one that started it all. And the original film is the 90-iest of 90s movies. Dimwitted but randomly eloquent metal heads Bill and Ted learn from super cool time traveller Rufus (late comedian George Carlin) that their philosophy and music of their band Wyld Stallyns (not a typo) is the foundation of a utopian future. But first they have to travel through time picking up historical figures for their history presentation.

The movie is silly, campy and never takes itself too seriously. The humour ranges from Bill and Ted’s ridiculous and catchphrase-inspiring commentary, to Sigmund Freud awkwardly trying to pick up chicks, to mispronouncing philosopher Socrates as So-Crates, to watching Napoleon in a water slide. And some of the jokes are quite high brow including when Bill talks about his slight Oedipal complex for his hot stepmom Missy. Now the medieval babes and historical figures adapt to the modern world a little too quickly, and there are some questionable time travel mechanics, but this is a movie where you just turn off your brain and have fun throughout. In a word, it’s excellent! 

Rating: 8 out of 10 

Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

BILL: Dude, I think we may be dead. TED: Whoa…bogus

In Bogus Journey Bill and Ted robot lookalikes are sent from the future by Rufus’ gym teacher to kill the duo. When they succeed the two end up in hell (bogus, I know) but with the help of Death himself (a hilarious turn by William Sadler), a visit to Heaven, their own robot-us-es and aliens Station they are able to save the day. 

I will give the sequel props for not repeating the central time travel plot and going in a different direction. The story is not as strong but is boosted by the fun characters. And who doesn’t want to watch a movie where Death both gets and gives a “Melvin”? Like the first film Bogus Journey is a bit dated, especially in the dialogue department and the use of “gay” as a slur, but there is still a lot of enjoyment to be had in the darker sequel. 

Rating:  6.5 out of 10 

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures (Animated Series, 1990-1991)

BILL: Look Ted. We’re animated TED: Excellent!

I was not able to rewatch all 21 episodes of this animated series (man, everything got an animated series back in the day) but I was able to find a few of them. And they are really lighthearted affairs directed at a younger audience. The animated format allowed for travelling to more exotic locations and a lot more over the top shenanigans.

The first season and Hanna-Barbera version had Reeves, Winter and Carlin reprise their roles which was a pretty cool touch. The second season, however, moved to DiC and the animation got a downgrade. The voice cast was also changed with Evan Richards, Christopher Kennedy and Rick Overton voicing Bill, Ted and Rufus respectively. They do a pretty decent job though the originals will always be the originals. The series is okay if you want to track it down but there are better cartoons from the time. This was is mostly a novelty of the era. There is no rating as I was not able to watch all episodes. In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith I have failed you. #feelshame

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures (TV Series, 1992)

These guys aren’t Bill and Ted. Bogus!

I am the only who didn’t know this series happened? No? Whew. Was feeling kind of left out there. So yeah, there was a live action series based on the franchise. The voice cast from the second season of the animated series reprise their roles and in terms of looks and mannerisms they are passable facsimiles of the originals. The series ran for seven episodes including an unaired pilot where Missy spends most of the time in the bikini, Ted talks about getting a “chubby” and there is a weird plot about rescuing a woman from a black and white pulp comic book world. No surprise they didn’t pick that up.

The series proper find Bill and Ted splitting their time between work at the tool supply story Nail World and going on time travelling adventures where they meet the future King Arthur, Elvis and Albert Einstein. The series is in the sitcom category but it is not very funny (I laughed a couple of times for the most per episode) and the limited budget was very apparent. But it is decent enough and is surprisingly not terrible. I found all the episodes on YouTube in case you are interested in checking it out.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020)

Back in the booth!

The latest film in the franchise finds Bill and Ted trying to come up with the song to unite the world before all reality is destroyed. In the meanwhile their daughters travel to the past to recruit a band made up of famous historical musicians. I really enjoyed this one. Winter and Reeves are great together and the best parts of the film was them interacting with their various future versions. They feel like a natural evolution of their younger, slacker selves. And not surprisingly the special effects gets a major upgrade, making the future, time travel and a surprisingly dorky killer robot from the future look sweet! The movie also rewards long time fans with the return of characters like Rufus (vi hologram), Missy (now married to Ted’s younger brother, seriously, she is the Brooke Logan of the franchise), Ted’s cop dad and Death as well. The ending is also very feel good and uplifting.

The film’s most glaring flaw is in the resolution and having Bill and Ted’s daughters save the day just didn’t work. The actresses were fine (Weaving is a genre queen) but they had very little to work with. And their brief scenes in the past are just not very interesting. So the set up could have worked but the ladies needed more development. That aside the film is a great time and would be enjoyed by both long time fans and new ones. And remember: Party On and Be Excellent to Each Other.

Rating. 7.5 out of 10

So are you fan of the Bill and Ted franchise? For my review of Cobra Kai Seasons 1 and 2 you can click here.

Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.

I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville

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