Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) by contrast is a high-brow comedy about the same dumb dudes.
Before it finishes up, this film jabs science fiction tropes, and Star Trek (1966-1969), specifically, but also patiently (and humorously) develops a satire based on Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece, The Seventh Seal (1967).
Rufus (George Carlin) manages to enter the time vortex after the robots, but is soon determined to be missing.
They beat him at Twister (following games of Battleship and Clue), and force Death to bring them back to life. The Grim Reaper complies, and then takes them to Heaven, where Bill and Ted petition God to help defeat the evil robots.
It was odd and amusing hearing them use surfer speak in various historical contexts in the first film, but even funnier to witness them address beings of Heaven and Hell in this one.
“How’s it going, Beelzabub?” for instance, or “How’s it hanging, Death?”
Also, it’s impossible not to laugh at the moment here in which Bill and Ted pull a Uranus joke on the Almighty Lord. And,-- ridiculously -- this moment comes after they have mugged peaceful souls arriving in Heaven and stolen their clothes.
This films throws up the sci-fi cliché or trope of evil android duplicates, and then puts them in a plot that directly reflects a Star Trek episode.
Specifically, Bill and Ted watch “Arena” on TV...the episode with Kirk fighting the Gorn at Vasquez Rocks. We view footage of William Shatner at that famous natural landmark on their TV set. Then, in the very next scene, we get identical shots of Bill and Ted at the same locale, fighting their own enemy.
In that film, Max Von Sydow’s character, Antonius Block, plays a chess game with Death -- a monk-like, bald-figure in a black cowl -- for his survival. The chess game is a symbol in the Swedish film, and it is believed, by the movie's characters, that no force can beat death. For humans, it is always check and mate, sooner or later.
The film features a very funny scene involving several different popular games as Death is beaten -- a terrible player, apparently -- again and again. The final interlude of this montage involves Twister.
Suddenly these aging, balding men in their fifties begin gesticulating and talking like surfers, and the scene earns some big laughs.
They also go to the hellish equivalent of Military School, where they are ordered to drop and do "infinity" push ups.
But in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the screenwriters move effortlessly from joke to joke, from Star Trek gag to Grim Reaper gag, from, possession gag to Hell gag, to Heaven gag, and so on. The film veritably speeds by on its humorous high points, and ends before you can think twice about any gaps in logic.
Rufus established in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure that time runs on always-moving tracks. In other words, the clock continues for time travelers even when they are traveling.
But in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the duo violates this rule, able to leave the Battle of the Bands to learn how to play guitar, and then come back to that very moment in time, as if no duration elapsed. Given the rules established in the first film, how'd they manage this?
A little more thought about how time travel works in this universe would have made the film all the stronger.
On the other hand, this sequel does expand the franchise universe in other memorable ways. We see the depths of Hell, the architecture of Heaven, and even Bill and Ted University in the future. The original film had all of human history to explore, and yet felt like a cheap TV show.
By comparison, Bogus Journey is as big and weird as existence itself.
He’s been baddies (Die Harder ) and a supporting, fatherly figure (Roswell) before, but the actor demonstrates real comedy chops as the Grim Reaper in this film. He comes off as pathetic, desperate, and a hanger-on, but ultimately, a worthy ally for the non-judgmental Bill and Ted. He's a great sidekick and foil for the duo, a would-be regal figure brought to a point far below his ostensible dignity.
That's very much what happens here, as Bill and Ted's music changes the fabric of reality itself. The film's end credits amusingly feature magazine covers charting the rise of Wyld Stallyns and Bill and Ted to ever greater heights (including a mission to Mars).
Bill and Ted may go through Hell, literally, during their bogus journey, but for this reviewer, the 1991 sequel is actually a lot closer to Heaven, with nearly every crazy, inventive gag hitting its mark, and hitting it hard.