Bill and Ted's Most Excellent Collection
MGM // R // $29.99 // July 12, 2005
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 18, 2005
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"Who was Joan Of Arc?"
"Noah's wife?"

Such classic banter was what made this 1989 picture so enormously popular. Directed by Stephen Herek ("Rock Star") and starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, the picture was likely an inspiration for both "Wayne's World" and "Beavis and Butthead" and also came before such pictures as "Dumb and Dumber". Yet, there's something so clever about the story and intelligent about the character's stupidity that the film (certainly moreso than the sequel) remains hilarious years later.

The story goes like this: the future society revolves around the music of Bill and Ted's band, Wyld Stallyns. The problem is, if they don't pass their history test tomorrow, they're never going to get their band together and the future world won't be the wonder that it is. The future sends back Rufus (George Carlin) in a phone booth, with lands next to them while they're sitting at the Circle K. After a bit of convincing, the three head off in the phone booth to collect actual historical figures for their history report from their actual time periods. No way!

Of course, this role is one of the early efforts in Keanu Reeves' career that brought him closer to stardom. Unfortunately for Winter, his career really hasn't gone anywhere since, although rumors persist that he's planning a third "Bill and Ted" picture. The look and feel of the film has certainly become a bit dated since the late 80's when this picture was released, but the screenplay by Ed Solomon ("Men In Black") and Chris Matheson ("A Goofy Movie") remains hilarious and occasionally witty, despite the character's stupidity, today.

Throughout cinematic history, sequels have rarely reached or surpassed their previous efforts. This has been proven time and time again with weak retreads of the same characters, only costing more money. "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" is a rare instance, a sequel that doesn't meet the original picture's greatness, but still has a few inspired ideas up its sleeve.

This 1991 effort starts off where the 1989 suprise hit left off. Bill and Ted aced their history report and got to be with the princesses that they met when they were back in time. In the future, evil robot Ted and evil Robot Bill are dispatched to take out their past counterparts before they achieve great success. Unfortunately for our heroes, their robot counterparts are successful and Bill and Ted find themselves trying to battle the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) in a game of Battleship, Clue and eventually, Twister. On their journey, they go through Heaven and Hell, trying to find a way to stop their evil counterparts and save the day.
The first picture was a bit more consistently funny; it really carried the premise wonderfully and got terrific performances out of Alex Winter and an early Keanu Reeves. Reeves and Winter are just as fantastic here and the script is terrific, but the middle portion is so funny the ending can't seem but slightly weak in comparison. The sequence where the two go to Hell and are confronted with their own personal nightmares is an impressive bit of production design. Sadler's also quite funny and the scene where the two must face off with him in a battle of the board games is hilarious.


VIDEO: "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" is presented by MGM in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ("Original aspect ratio, dude!"). While there are some negatives to this presentation, I thought that there were certainly some pleasing elements to MGM's efforts. Sharpness and detail were generally quite good; although some sequences did display some slight softness, the majority of the movie appeared crisp and well-defined.

Really the only problem that caused noticable concern during the film were print flaws. Although not terribly worn, there were occasional specks, marks, slight dirt and very light grain. These problems caused some minor distractions at times, but I didn't find that they became completely irritating. On a positive note, there were no instances of pixelation or edge enhancement to cause further annoyance.

Colors generally looked bright and rich, with no concerns. Black level also seemed strong and flesh tones were accurate. While not without some problems here and there, this is a pretty enjoyable effort from MGM. This also seems to be the first widescreen release of the picture on home video, as the laserdisc was pan & scan, according to the IMDB.

While not without some minor imperfections, MGM's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen edition of "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" looked better than the first film. Sharpness and detail were a bit stronger, as the picture looked consistently more well-defined throughout and suffered from a few less flaws.

Print flaws on the first film were visible a bit more often than I'd like to see from a film that was relatively recent. There are some minor specks visible here (especially on a few primitive effects shots here and there), but they were apparent at a less consistent rate. Nothing further, such as scratches or larger marks, were seen. Edge enhancement was light and I didn't see any pixelation.

Colors were nicely rendered, as well. The deep reds of the middle section looked slightly smeared, but otherwise, colors looked sharp and natural. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. Not terrific, but moderately better looking than the original in terms of image quality. Presentation quality was the same on both films.

SOUND: "Bill and Ted" boasts a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, yet it does come up a bit short. There are several sequences where the surrounds could have been employed more (the time-travel scenes), but they generally provide subtle, simple reinforcement of the music and infrequently, some of the effects. Audio quality remained pleasant, as dialogue and effects came through clearly.

"Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey", like the earlier picture, is also presented in newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1. Unlike the first picture, there's considerably more going on in the surrounds than there was in the original. The rears come to life nicely with various sound effects and occasionally, some of the music. Audio quality was also considerably better than the earlier film - while the sound of that film seemed rather flat across the board, the music sounded fuller and stronger here, while the effects came across with a bit more power. Presentation quality was the same on the prior releases of both films.

EXTRAS: The third disc is where all of the new features can be found. The "Making Of" documentary lasts just under 30 minutes and, not surprisingly, includes no input from Keanu Reeves. The documentary starts off iffy, as the documentary starts off with a fair amount of footage used as filler and small talk about the creation of the Bill and Ted characters. About halfway through, the documentary gets more interesting as we hear more about the reaction to the film by the suits and how the first film had to put up a bit of a fight to get released. We then hear more about how the sequel was approached and how the production of "Bogus Journey" went. Throughout, we hear from actor Alex Winter, directors Stephen Herek and Peter Hewitt, the film's screenwriters and others.

"The Original Bill and Ted" is a conversation with screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Mathieson. The duo chat about their experiences working together, as well as their original creation of the Bill and Ted characters. The bonus disc also includes something that brought back a lot of memories - the premiere episode of the "Bill and Ted" cartoon series. Was a good show then and still seemed to hold up pretty well.

"The Hysterical Personages of Bill and Ted" is sort of a Bill & Ted-style history lesson, while "The Linguistic Stylings of Bill and Ted" is a guide to the duo's phrases. "Score!" is an interview with guitarist Steve Vai. We also get an "air guitar tutorial".

Final Thoughts: The two "Bill and Ted" films still stand up remarkably well - they're a whole lot of fun, and they're still clever in their own way. This DVD set isn't bad, but it's a bit of a disappointment. We get the two prior releases packaged with a so-so third disc. The "making of" documentary is fine, and it's great to see the animated series again (at least the premiere episode), but other than that, there's not very much of interest included. It's too bad that commentaries weren't done, at least. Those who own the prior releases of the "Bill and Ted" films should skip this, but those who don't already own the movies should certainly pick up this reasonably priced box set.

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