Welcome back to the Sequelthon everyone. Last month we looked at the recent comedy sequel Horrible Bosses 2 and briefly touched on the tough dilemma faced by comedy sequels which other genres more easily avoid. Horror sequels can start with a fresh set of victims for the villain or let the lone survivor from the first movie run away from the villain again. Originality will eventually win out but the same formula can be used repeatedly and still get scares. Action movie sequels can win us over by letting the hero confront slightly different villains while slowly walking away from bigger explosions. Meanwhile comedy movies are left with a trickier problem. Like action or horror movies they can up the ante (like the Die Hard films) or put the main stars in an almost identical scenario (like going undercover in college instead of high school in 22 Jump Street). But somehow in comedy the speed of staleness is much faster. Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen as many sustained comedy franchises as we have in action and horror: like Paranormal Activity with six current films, Saw with eight, Friday the 13th with twelve (twelve!) and even Die Hard which stands at five films but is looking to its sixth. Sure we get plenty of comedy sequels and trilogies (maybe too many) but outside of Police Academy not many franchises rack up more than a trilogy.
The film we focus on today is not part of a length franchise and the fact that it exists at all may be somewhat surprising. In 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the titular heroes (played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) travel through in a phone booth to gather up historical figures to help pass a high school history presentation. For the record, I loved that movie. The references are dated for sure but the movie is still entertaining. In Bogus Journey, evil robotic versions of Bill and Ted are sent from the future to kill the heroes before they compete in Battle of the Bands and create a utopian society (…there’s a whole utopian thing. I won’t even try to explain it. It’s awesome and makes sense). Right away the evil robots succeed and kill Bill and Ted. On like the first try. This setup drops the Terminator-esque robot-from-the-future-chase-mankind’s-savior concept and instead lets us follow Bill and Ted travel through the afterlife. Soon the ghosts of Bill and Ted set out to get their bodies back and save the princesses (…actual princesses from the first movie that they took from medieval times to be their girlfriends. It’s cute not weird. Trust me).
Maybe that concept is what makes the movie so much fun. Or maybe its the two goofball leads who you can’t help but root for. Either way, Bogus Journey plays out a fun and clever storyline that never claims to be any more serious than its two lead. It doesn’t retread the path paved by the first film and steers in a new direction. And as silly as Bill and Ted are throughout the film, Bogus Journey makes plenty of smart jokes and commentary buried in the over-the-top and surreal moments. Bill and Ted playing Death in Battleship and Twister is a clear callback to the chess game in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal and hints at the films playful approach by inverting the solemnity of Bergman’s Death with a bumbling, wedgied, and sunhat-wearing version. Yet the movie doesn’t dwell on any need for insight and opts to delivers up 90 minutes of farce which just so happens to feature one of Keanu Reeves’s most endearing performances.