Richard Matheson wrote many science fiction stories that continue to find themselves on the big screen, decades after he wrote them. His son, Chris, may not be as famous, but his writing – Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1989) and its sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) – has entertained millions and developed a cult following. Now, thanks to Shout! Factory, a new generation will experience the adventures (and shenanigans) of the two most ridiculous antiheroes somewhere between Lloyd and Harry, and Wayne and Garth!
While River’s Edge might have been Keanu Reeves’ “break” and Point Break made him a corporate action star, the surprising success of his role as Ted alongside Alex Winter’s Bill brought him to the attention of all the fans of Wyld Stallyns. And the simple hook began with this: the fate of the universe revolved around whether or not Bill and Ted could pass their final history class in high school.
So ridiculous it borders on obscene, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure saw them play a lot of air guitar, travel with erstwhile guardian Rufus (George Carlin, before Reeves’ had Morpheus), and pick up chicks alongside the likes of Napoleon, Beethoven, Billy the Kid, Abe Lincoln, Joan of Arc, and a few other luminaries. Honestly, if I was a betting man, I’d say Peabody & Sherman owe a great debt to Matheson’s script. While I don’t want to sell short Stephen Herek’s (Mighty Ducks, The Three Musketeers, Holy Man) direction, but Reeves and Winter seem to have this covered. Ironically, while playing ‘second fiddle’ to Bill in name and ‘leadership’ (loosely), Reeves is the one to have soared.
Bill & Ted Go To Hell Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey finds them working with Death (William Sadler, in his funniest role ever) to get back to life, after two killer robots that look like Bill and Ted kill the real Bill and Ted.
While not quite as funny as the first, the second one extends the various ideas created in the first one, with a more metaphysical feel. It was profitable – and has led to the ongoing proposition that there be a follow-up film. (This would help Winter’s career greatly.) Given the strong focus on music in both films, there’s a bit of an Orpheus twist here – from the Greek mythology of the attempted rescue of Eurydice, not The Matrix– but that’s not why you’re watching these films!
Now, nearly thirty years later, you can experience the films in high definition and hear from Reeves, Winter, Sadler, and a host of others that will provide background, insight, and added humor to what’s going on onscreen. The best part may be watching it with someone who hasn’t seen it, just to see their face when the ‘good stuff’ happens…. and then rewatching it to see what went down in Bill & Ted time. As not to give it away, I’ll stop there!
Ultimately, I love the original because it’s hilarious. But there’s something appealing about two guys who wouldn’t harm a fly, who are capable of much more than they’d ever imagine. That’s the beauty of these anti-heroes heroes: they actually are heroic, they just don’t know it yet. But their God-given potential, their desire to do something great, gets used to bless many more people than themselves. And we get to go along for the ride.