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Dustin Putman

Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Films
    Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
    3.5 Stars
    Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
    2.5 Stars
(Release Date: September 27, 2016) – When "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" became a surprise sleeper hit in 1989, critical notices were by and large negative, missing the entire point of a light-hearted, immensely lovable comedy that did not, as so many claimed, celebrate stupidity. Instead, the film took a satirical look at two 15-year-old California dude-bros (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) who prove their naysayers wrong by being altogether cleverer than anyone gave them credit. At the start of the film, they may assume historical figure Caesar is a "salad dressing dude," but their vocabulary is impressive, going beyond typical '80s vernacular like "bogus," "heinous" and "triumphant" to also properly use "egregious" and "tranquil" in their everyday speech. If they would apply themselves in school, they might even surprise themselves with what they are capable—a notion put to the test when their preparation for an all-important oral history report sends them on a tubular journey through time that finds them befriending everyone from Napoleon to Beethoven to Joan of Arc to Socrates to Abraham Lincoln to Billy the Kid.

Imaginatively written by Ed Solomon & Chris Matheson and brightly directed by Stephen Herek (who would go on to helm 1991's equally delightful, endlessly quote-worthy "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead"), "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" is a quintessential late-'80s chestnut that never ceases to make this viewer long to be back in that decade of big hair, loud fashions, great music, and shopping malls, waterslides and bowling alleys on every corner. Entertaining to a fault, moving from one situation and setting to the next over a zippy 89 minutes, the film has fun with its fish-out-of-water collision of eras and personalities. As best buddies and wannabe musicians Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are a perfect match, so effortlessly embodying their roles it is impossible to imagine anyone else in them. If Bill and Ted are a little dense at times, they are also unsuspectingly intelligent and do not have a mean bone in their bodies. Following them is a pleasure, the fate of their friendship and—as they come to discover from mysterious helper Rufus (George Carlin)—future hinging upon them getting an A+ on their history report. "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" is still as funny and sweet as ever, having lost none of its charm in the years since its release.

"Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," directed by Peter Hewitt and co-written once more by Ed Solomon & Chris Matheson, is an uneven sequel, but one that gets points for trying something completely different rather than rehashing its predecessor's premise. Still struggling to learn how to play instruments so they can fulfill their destinies as rock gods who change the future of the world, Bill and Ted are excited when they get the opportunity to perform in a "Battle of the Bands" competition. Unfortunately, their plans—including their marriage proposals to princess girlfriends Joanna (Sarah Trigger) and Elizabeth (Annette Azcuy)—are cut short when two robotic replicas are sent back in time to kill them. In order to return to the world of the living, Bill and Ted must defeat the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) in a series of games. First, though, they have to face their worst fears in Hell.

"Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is a decidedly more forced and scattershot affair than "Excellent Adventure," but one with plenty of amiable qualities of its own. The plot itself is ambitious and not afraid to go dark—our heroes' hellish run-ins with a tyrannical drill sergeant, a scary, long-whiskered granny, and a malicious Easter bunny could easily be confused for a horror movie—but the tone makes certain to not misplace the series' goofy humor and one-liners. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves slide back into their title roles without missing a beat, but it is William Sadler as the sore-loser Grim Reaper who steals the show. Sadler's performance is pure comic inspiration—more so, it should be said, than a pair of supposedly brilliant pint-sized aliens named Station who are called upon to help the guys defeat evil robots Bill and Ted. "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is a mixed bag, to be sure, but its offbeat amiability outweighs its moments of excess.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: A-/A-
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: B-/A-

"Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" arrive on Blu-ray as part of Shout! Factory's new home entertainment series Shout Select. The former film, previously released on Blu-ray by MGM in 2012, looks terrific in its 1080p transfer, crisper and cleaner than one might expect from a film shot in 1987 and released in '89. Colors pop throughout (the film is full of pastels and neons), while the high-definition clarity reveals fine details in facial close-ups and in building and clothing textures. Of course, there are also softer shots here and there, but this is inherent to source. A fine grain structure with minimal obvious noise contributes to the accuracy of this transfer.

Making its Blu-ray debut, 1991's "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" is arguably more aged, despite being newer. The film relies heavily on special effects and optical shots that now appear dated, and many of these scenes suffer from a hazy, indistinct appearance. In brighter surroundings and also in pitch darkness (as when Bill and Ted are falling Alice-in-Wonderland-style through a pit of blackness), the picture improves dramatically. Blacks are appropriately deep and inky, while daytime scenes excel in their level of dimensionality and clarity. Unobtrusive but occasionally noticeable speckles can be spotted here and there, but other parts are exceptionally clean. "Bogus Journey" certainly looks better than it has on all previous home video formats, but it still could have used a little freshening up.

Both features come with two separate audio options: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track. I watched the 5.1 presentations, and they both sound great to my ears. The music score and memorable soundtrack cues are highlights, giving the pictures a full-bodied oomph even as most dialogue is reserved to the front speakers. Other sound effects get a chance to stand out, as in the phone booth scenes in "Excellent Adventure" as Bill & Ted and the historical figures they've snatched travel across the space-time continuum, and in the dynamic Hell set-piece in "Bogus Journey" as the guys are pulled into the fiery lair of Beelzebub and, later, face their worst fears involving the decrepit Granny Preston and a creepy pink Easter bunny. All in all, fans of these films should be satisfied with their high-definition, lossless audio treatments.

Blu-ray Features
  Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Disc One)
  • Audio Commentary with actor Alex Winter and producer Scott Kroopf
  • Audio Commentary with writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:57, HD)
  Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (Disc Two)
  • Audio Commentary with actor Alex Winter and producer Scott Kroopf
  • Audio Commentary with writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:03, HD)
  Special Features (Disc Three)
  • "Time Flies When You Are Having Fun! - A Look Back at a Most Excellent Adventure" Featurette (1:01:14, HD)
  • "Bill and Ted Go to Hell - Revisiting a Bogus Journey" Featurette (52:04, HD)
  • "The Most Triumphant Making Of Documentary" Featurette (30:53, HD)
  • "The Original Bill & Ted - In Conversation with Chris and Ed" Featurette (20:15, HD)
  • "Score! An Interview with Guitarist Steve Vai" Featurette (12:46, HD)
  • "The Hysterical Personages of Bill & Ted" Featurette (15:27, HD)
  • "Air Guitar Tutorial" Featurette (13:15, HD)
  • "The Linguistic Stylings of Bill & Ted" Featurette (3:41, HD)
  • Vintage EPK (6:39, HD)
Bottom Line
Shout Select bring the eagerly anticipated "Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection" to Blu-ray with a three-disc Collector's Edition set that includes nearly ten(!) hours of bonus content. This is a thrilling set—equipped with solid tech specs and exhaustive in its behind-the-scenes material, full of new interviews and audio commentaries—that fans of the series will absolutely love. Seeing "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" 25-plus years after their releases reveal movies far smarter and savvier than most critics at the time claimed. This is a highly recommended release for all, but an absolute must-own for enthusiasts of the franchise.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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