DirectorStephen Herek, Pete Hewitt
Release Date(s)1989/1991 (September 27, 2016)
Studio(s)Nelson Entertainment/Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout! Factory/Shout Select)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: B+
- Overall Grade: B+
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) are the tales of two time-traveling teenagers whose Rock and Roll is destined to change the world. They’re also the product of writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. The script for Excellent Adventure was originally picked up for distribution by the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group in 1987. The movie was planned for release the following year, but after the distribution company went bankrupt, it languished instead. Nelson Entertainment and Orion Pictures eventually acquired the movie and released it theatrically in 1989. Though labeled a generic “stoner comedy” by critics and written off entirely, it found success and an audience with young adults. After this modest hit, Bogus Journey took a radically different direction with the characters and the overall tone, resulting in a mixed reaction from both critics and audiences. Both movies were, however, popular enough to spawn a strong aftermarket life on home video and the hope of a second sequel that’s still in the works.
Excellent Adventure is definitely the most light-hearted of the two. Aside from a couple of sexual references, there isn’t much here in terms of language or violence; the film could almost be G-rated with a few minor tweaks. While most of the time travel elements can be picked apart quite easily, the point of the movie is the comedy and its characters. This isn’t high art or even a science fiction movie we’re talking about. It comes from a pure source, or rather a place of non-cynicism; a place where a bunch of folks got together to make a movie, doing the best job that they could while having a great time doing it. Bill and Ted both have a lot of heart and stir up some good-natured fun, not being overly critical or judgmental of others. In that sense, they’re appealing and quite charming. They perceive a world with good people in it and treat others accordingly, as opposed to other movie comedies cut from a similar cloth, which are largely mean-spirited and depend mainly on cheap laughs and vulgarity.
Bogus Journey, on the other hand, places these characters in a completely different situation, which is being killed off and having to find a way to avoid that fate. The tone of the movie is a complete 180-degree turn away from the first. It’s much bigger in scale, putting Bill and Ted in the worst possible situation, yet allowing them the time to get out of it without altering their aforementioned sensibilities. There’s also a much stronger visual style on display, which is surreal and over the top at times. For me personally, I think Bogus Journey is a brave movie, and one that I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy when I watch it. Few sequels have the guts to go in such a drastically different direction, and while it wasn’t (and almost never is) something that paid off well in the end, it certainly grabbed everyone’s attention upon its release. I enjoy both movies, but the second goes for the throat, making it more effective by contrast.
Either way, both movies have something for everyone. They weren’t huge hits when they were released, but they managed to garner a loyal following over the years. They also spawned a lot of merchandise, as well as two follow-on series, entitled Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, that hit the air in 1990 and 1992. The former was a live action TV show and the latter was a Saturday morning cartoon; the latter actually featured the voices of Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin. In any case, these movies remain a high point for many people, and so it’s good to have them available in such a nice new Blu-ray collection with extras to boot.
Shout! Factory’s new Shout Select line of releases has so far given props to mostly cult classic titles, the Bill & Ted movies included. For Excellent Adventure, this release features a sharp-looking transfer that is extremely watchable and pleasing, but certainly carries over aspects from the previous MGM Blu-ray. It’s pleasant, but a bit inorganic-looking at times. For starters, there’s a lack of a solid grain structure. While grain is slightly more pronounced during opticals and title overlays, it’s a bit chunkier elsewhere and not very refined. Depth is also lacking, with images feeling a bit flat overall. Color reproduction is good, although not overly popping in appearance. Skin tones seem a tad too pink at times as well. Blacks are deep, but whites are a little overly bright, which pinpoints a possible higher contrast than usual. Despite these minor flaws, it’s still a clean presentation with no real signs of digital enhancement on display. Bogus Journey actually fares much better by comparison. It’s a little more organic in appearance with a more even grain structure, although not thoroughly solid. It offers more depth and better fine detailing, but opticals stand out even more than they do in Excellent Adventure. Colors are a little stronger and blacks are still deep, while contrast is generally good. It’s also a clean presentation with no signs of digital enhancement, but some white specks and minor scratches can be spotted under heavy scrutiny. Both presentations appear slightly darker than their MGM counterparts as well. The bottom line is that these presentations aren’t perfect, but they’re very good overall.
For the audio, both movies feature English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD tracks. Excellent Adventure’s surround presentation is a mostly-front heavy presentation, but the music benefits from the extra space, filling out the rear speakers with ease. Sound effects are decent and there is some occasional surround activity, mostly ambient, as well as some minor low end moments. Bogus Journey, again, is a little stronger than its predecessor (a bigger budget will do that). Dialogue reproduction is clear and discernable, sound effects have more weight to them, and there’s slightly more ambient surround activity. The strong music selection pumps through the rears again, and there’s much more low end activity to be felt. The 2.0 tracks are probably a bit more appropriate, as most people will have grown up watching these movies with only one or two channels anyway, but the 5.1 tracks aren’t a waste of time at all. Again, not the strongest presentations possible, but very good overall. There are also subtitles in English for both movies.
BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/B/B
BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B+/B+/B+
There’s also a wonderful amount of extras to be had in this set, albeit a little incomplete. Both movies feature two audio commentaries, one with actor Alex Winter and producer Scott Kroopf, another with writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. The original theatrical trailers have also been included, but the bulk of the extras can be found on the third disc of this set. Starting things off are two great new documentaries: Time Flies When You Are Having Fun!: A Look Back at a Most “Excellent Adventure” and Bill and Ted Go to Hell: Revisiting a “Bogus Journey”. Carried over from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases are the Most Triumphant Making Of documentary; The Original Bill & Ted: In Conversation with Chris and Ed; Score! An Interview with Guitarist Steve Vai; The Hysterical Personages of Bill and Ted; an Air Guitar Tutorial with Bjorn Turoque and the Rockness Monster; a vintage EPK for Bogus Journey; and The Linguistic Stylings of Bill and Ted. Also included in the packaging are a pair of Bill and Ted stickers, as well as a Wyld Stallyns guitar pick. Die-hard fans of both movies are likely to notice the lack of deleted scenes from both movies (although I’m sure they were searched for). Also missing are many of the TV spots and TV specials from the release of Bogus Journey, some of which can be found on YouTube (rights issues and salvageable elements likely prevented their inclusion here).
Whether you love them or hate them, the adventures of Bill and Ted live on through a generation of fans and have even managed to convey some positive messages to the world: “Be excellent to each other” and “Party on, dudes!” Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection from Shout! is a great Blu-ray package, one that you’ll really apprecitae if you count yourself among those fans, and it’s well-worth picking up.
- Tim Salmons