By Kirsten Coachman
Cue the air guitar! This weekend, the long-awaited (and greatly anticipated) Bill & Ted Face the Music has finally been released into the wild.
I was just a kid when I first watched Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (I indeed saw the sequel first), and I remember the characters of Bill and Ted being these funny dudes that were viewed as screw ups by the adults in the room and found themselves playing games with Death to save their beloved princesses. At the time, I think my biggest takeaway was that the experience of watching these characters portrayed by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves was a joyful one, as well as the ultimate lesson: to be excellent to each other.
In preparation for the release of Bill & Ted Face the Music, I decided to take a cinematic trip down memory lane and re-watch both Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
“Strange things are afoot at the Circle K”
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is audiences’ first introduction to Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Reeves) aka Wyld Stallyns. The 1989 film follows the wannabe rock stars from San Dimas, Calif., on their quest to pass their high school history class. They encounter Rufus (the late, great George Carlin), who arrives from the future via a phone booth and offers up his time-traveling ride to Bill and Ted, so they can complete their assignment and help Ted avoid being sent to military school by his dad. Historical hi-jinks ensue as the duo swoop up Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Genghis Khan, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln.
During my re-watch, I really liked how the film is grounded in this simple premise of Bill and Ted needing to pass their history class. Their decision to borrow these historical figures and introduce them to life in San Dimas for what turns out to be a most impressive history presentation is, yes, silly, but also incredibly entertaining. You can’t not laugh when Napoleon discovers a love for ice cream and water slides.
To be honest, this could have been a stand-alone film. To me, I find it that satisfying. That said, being that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey brought me to seek out Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure all those years ago, I’m pleased the writers sought to tell another Bill and Ted story a few years later.
“That was non-non-non-non heinous!”
Winter and Reeves reunited for 1991’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey–a darker, albeit very humorous follow-up. It’s 2691 A.D. in San Dimas, and big bad De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) intends to stop Bill and Ted before they reach a “crucial turning point in their destiny.” He confronts Rufus, who’s giving a class at Bill & Ted University, and reveals his secret weapon to kill Bill and Ted: realistic robot replicas programmed with an evil agenda. Back in present-day San Dimas, the Wyld Stallyns are focused on two things: Battle of the Bands and their medieval princessess. But when the Evil Bill and Evil Ted robots trick the duo into thinking their lady loves have broken things off with them, the metalheads lead Bill and Ted to an untimely meeting with Death (William Sadler).
Re-watching this film earlier this week, I can report that the talking Easter Bunny that Ted encounters as he and Bill journey through their respective personal hells is still oh-so creepy. Death was such a fun addition to the sequel–the back and forth banter between him and Bill and Ted as they played their way back to life via a variety of board games remains one of my all-time favorite moments.
Hell, aside, what I really appreciate about this film is that it shows what kind and dedicated humans Bill and Ted are. Their goal in working with Death and the Station martians to be brought back to life wasn’t centered on their dreams of becoming a successful band, rather it was making sure that the people they cared for most in their lives were safe. While Bill and Ted may not fit the ideal cookie-cutter hero mold, they seem to always have their hearts in the right place.
Ready to Face the Music
I have been looking forward to Bill & Ted Face the Music since rumblings about a possible third film started making their way around the internet years ago. I remember thinking how fun that would be to have another Bill and Ted story on screen but was full on prepared for the news to be just another rumor. So, you can imagine how ecstatic I was when Winter and Reeves made the official announcement last spring that they would indeed be making the movie.
For me, Bill and Ted are a treasured part of my childhood. I’m fairly certain that I drove my parents crazy with the amount of times that I watched Bogus Journey, as well as the overuse of words like “excellent,” “heinous,” and “bogus” that were incorporated into my everyday vocabulary. While on a trip with my grandmother in fifth grade, I remember being excited seeing signs for San Dimas, because that’s where Bill and Ted lived! In revisiting these films and these delightful characters this past week, I got to relive a little bit of my childhood and all of the memories tied to them and for that, I’m grateful.
Catch you later, Bill and Ted!