DVD Review HTF Review: Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Collection

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 1989 / 1991
    Rated: PG
    Running Time: 90 minutes / 94 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1 and 1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese (Bogus Journey only)
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1; “Bogus Journey” = English – Dolby Digital 5.1; French, Portuguese, and Spanish - Monaural

    Release Date:
    July 12th, 2005

    Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
    Although I hesitate to call them cult classics, the “Bill & Ted” films, which chronicle the misadventures of two friends with limited vocabularies and equally limited intelligence that hope to become rock ’n roll icons via their guitar-driven band, the Wyld Stallyns (insert air guitar noodling here!), sure do have a cult following. I will not pretend that I know the reasons why these films have remained as popular as they have for so long, but I personally find that as silly as they can be, both are good-natured enough to be enjoyable, and encapsulate certain aspects of the time they were made perfectly.

    That being said, both of these motion pictures seem to me to be quite dated now, especially after not having seen either one for a couple of years. In large part, this is due to the minimalist surfer/burn-out vocabulary used by Bill and Ted, and some of the pop culture references woven into the plots, and it makes them slightly less entertaining today. For whatever it is worth though, I believe the first film’s more jovial tone and more tolerable plot makes it the more humorous of the two films.

    And as the duo’s initial big screen debut, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure begins, we see how consumed the title characters are with music and their band, the aforementioned Wyld Stallyns. Unfortunately, Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) have been paying too much attention to music and not nearly enough to their studies, which does not sit too well with their parents. In fact, Ted’s father is of the opinion that his son should be sent away to a military school in the frozen tundra of Alaska, to learn some discipline! Realizing that this would end their dreams of superstardom, the duo decide that they have to come up with a way to salvage their school year by getting an ‘A’ on their history final.

    Luckily, they receive some help, in the form of a mystery man from the future named Rufus (George Carlin), who just happens to have a time-traveling telephone booth that will allow Bill and Ted to observe history first-hand. Why would a man with such awesome power care about two idiots like Bill and Ted, you ask? Well, old Rufus knows a little something about Bill and Ted’s destiny that they do not – their bodacious tunes will soon be responsible for changing the world – so he has been sent back in time to ensure that Bill and Ted remain together, and the Stallyns continue to rock!

    With Rufus’ help, Bill and Ted embark on a raucous journey through time, meeting an array of prominent people from all throughout recorded history, including Socrates, Joan of Arc, and Napoleon. Their ingenious plan is to round these folks up, drag them along to present day San Dimas, California, and have them be a part of the duo’s most excellent history presentation! In doing so, they hope to ace their course, which would both save Ted from the bitter cold of Alaska and fulfill their destiny as an important component of a peaceful future.

    Now ridiculous is probably the best word to describe this premise, but it just seems to work for some reason! To be sure, Excellent Adventure is not a great film, there is no real substantial “message” in it, and you sure won’t be amazed by the snappy dialogue, tour-de-force performances, or eye-popping special effects, because there are none. Quite simply, the sole reason this movie exists is to try and entertain, and though inspired performances by Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter do lend a helping hand, this is one of those movies that is fun and likeable for no reason in particular, in spite of all the reasons it shouldn’t be.

    By my estimation, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a textbook example of a guilty pleasure, but we can all use a little of that every now and then! At the very least, those of us who went through our teenage years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and imitated Bill and Ted’s speech (guilty as charged) can see how very foolish we sounded! [​IMG]

    Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
    This follow-up to the unexpectedly successful Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a departure from its predecessor, in that it has a slightly darker tone. As the film opens, we rejoin Bill and Ted, post-high school, and see that their life has improved dramatically since we saw them last, just as Rufus had predicted! Indeed, the Stallyns are still rocking hard, preparing themselves for a “Battle of the Bands”- type competition. Our title characters have also managed to cozy up to a couple of pretty ladies since we last checked in with them as well!

    Sadly, however, just as they are beginning to enjoy themselves, and stand on the brink of realizing their biggest dreams, two robots that resemble Bill and Ted are sent back through time by an evil gym teacher intent on changing the future (remember that the Stallyns’ music changes the world). Once these evil robots reach the present, they murder Bill and Ted, assume their identities, and begin their job of ruining all Bill and Ted worked so hard to achieve.

    In the meantime, the recently deceased friends discover that there is an afterlife, and that they have a chance to return to the land of the living by defeating the grim reaper (William Sadler) at a variety of challenges – including playing board games like Clue, for example. If they can manage to succeed at beating death, the dimwitted duo is hopeful that they will be freed from hell in time to rescue their chicks and blow all their competitors off the stage at the Battle of the Bands, thus restoring the future to its proper form.

    Now I don’t know what you are thinking, but I found this premise to be even more “out there” than that of the previous film, and quite frankly, it is not pulled off nearly as well. As such, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey never seems to be able to generate the positive, spontaneous vibe that Excellent Adventure did. Instead, this sophomore effort is heavy with lavish special effects sequences and gaudy sets, perhaps to disguise its lack of originality. As mentioned in the supplemental materials, the film’s tone is also darker, due to a falling out between the two friends/writers who created the characters.

    My biggest problem with Bogus Journey, however, involved the latter portions of the film, which are not only absurd but confusing, as Bill and Ted receive help from truly unexpected sources – as if the writers had trouble concocting a more solid ending. The bottom line is that many of the most successful aspects of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which made that film so unexpectedly fun and winning, have been jettisoned in favor of this “bigger-is-better” approach.

    As I have always said though, taste in films is subjective, and I can see how someone who really liked the first film a lot could also be fond of Bogus Journey. Those on the fence, like me, will probably have a little harder time swallowing it, even if you grew up during the early 1990s, when these films were popular enough to spawn a cartoon series. It does have its moments, but I think this film will have a limited appeal to those outside of Bill and Ted’s core fan base.

    If you are asking, “Hey, hasn’t MGM released both of these films on DVD already?”, the answer is yes, and those very same discs from 2001 are what we get in this “most excellent” box set. Unfortunately, while both motion pictures feature anamorphically enhanced widescreen (2.35:1 for Excellent Adventure and 1.85:1 for Bogus Journey) transfers, their image quality is simply not that impressive by current standards.

    Truth be told though, both transfers do have a couple of good qualities, such as satisfactory color reproduction, true flesh tones, and an acceptable level of fine detail (a little less so in Bogus Journey). Both presentations also appeared to be free of digital artifacts, and only a nominal amount of edge enhancement was visible, but it never proved to be anything more than a minor distraction.

    On the other hand, the images also contained heavy amounts of grain, specks, and scratches, and neither transfer does a particularly good job of creating a sense of depth or texture. I suppose that if you have become accustomed to the horrendous image quality of these Bill and Ted movies on the tube or your trusty old videotape (does anyone still use those anymore? [​IMG] ), you will find the overall image quality present here to be a significant improvement over either of those formats. However, fans of the films that were hoping for more, or looking to this set as the “be-all-end-all” Bill & Ted collection will be sorely disappointed by the lack of a visual overhaul. Even though I would not necessarily count myself in with the latter group, I am certainly of the opinion that they would have benefited greatly had they been re-mastered, as they should have been.

    As was the case with the image transfers, MGM decided that the previously existing surround mixes for the two films in this set would suffice (Bogus Journey also has a few non-English monaural tracks on board). Once again, this is too bad, because neither surround mix was particularly impressive. To be fair, fidelity and frequency response were fine, and characters’ speech was free of any significant abnormalities or audible distractions. Moreover, effects and the rock-influenced music in both films were also fairly well balanced against characters’ speech.

    Unfortunately, these mixes are WAY too conservative, so the soundstage in both films is very narrowly focused, with the vast majority of the audio information emanating from the front and center of the listening space. Since these soundtracks are actually pretty lively, these most-heinous mixes are a good example of how not to utilize all 5.1 channels to enhance the viewing experience. This is particularly true in the case of Excellent Adventure, which sounds almost bland.

    At the very least, there should have been more effective deployment of the surround channels during Bill and Ted’s travels in Rufus’ phone booth, and the score also could have been spread around the soundstage in this fashion! Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is a little better in this respect, although I still think the mix is not as dynamic as it probably should have been.

    I hate to sound like I am dwelling on only one aspect of the listening experience, especially since they do succeed in certain areas, but in my opinion, these mixes simply do not do a good enough job of immersing the viewer/listener in either of Bill and Ted’s adventures.


    Air Guitar Tutorial
    If it is your cup of tea, you can learn how to pretend you rock, through this overlong 13-minute tutorial with “professional” air guitarists Bjorn Torogue (Dan Crane) and the Rockness Monster (Fatima Hoang). As a guitarist myself, I will admit that I “played” air guitar as a youngster too, but I had absolutely NO love for this lame tutorial…there is no substitute for actually rocking! [​IMG]

    The Most Triumphant Making-Of Documentary
    This is a 31-minute documentary on the making of the Bill & Ted films, with behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with well-spoken actor (or is it former actor?) Alex Winter, “Excellent Adventure” director Stephen Herek, “Bogus Journey” director Peter Hewitt, character creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and other key members of the crews. I must say that it was both thorough and enjoyable, covering just about everything fans will want to know, such as:

    --- The origins of the Bill and Ted characters in an improvisational group
    --- How crucial it was to cast the right actors for the parts of Bill and Ted, in order to create the chemistry these films hinged on.
    --- The reasons that Bill and Ted’s adventures began in San Dimas, California
    --- A candid discussion about the sequel, including the fights over the script and the reluctance of the actors to reprise their roles, for fear of being typecast.

    The Original Bill & Ted: In Conversation With Chris and Ed
    In this 20-minute featurette, writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson reminisce on the creation of the characters and the story of Bill and Ted, and how both grew out of their personal friendship. The two guys jump around a bit, but they also provide some detail on topics that fans may find interesting, such as how Bill and Ted’s speech patterns were developed, the creation of the original outline for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and the subsequent process of getting the film made. Interestingly, they also reveal that personal conflicts between them impacted the sequel to a degree, especially in terms of its darker tone.

    Score! An Interview With Steve Vai
    This 12 ½-minute interview consists of legendary rock guitarist/beekeeper Steve Vai talking about his contributions to Bill and Ted’s universe! He begins by discussing his own career, including his days with Frank Zappa and his initial journey into the world of motion pictures in Crossroads. Finally, he discusses his work on the Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack in detail, which frequently required him to come up with something really amazing in a very short amount of time.

    Hysterical Personages: A History Lesson
    “Hysterical Personages” is a moderately funny piece, consisting of narrated bios of the historical figures that Bill and Ted encounter in the film, including Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, and Socrates, played in “Eight Minutes or More” or in “Three Minutes or Less”, which simply speeds the featurette up, so that the voice-over sounds like it is being done by a chipmunk!

    The Linguistic Stylings of Bill & Ted
    This brief extra (4:00) is a sort of glossary of Bill & Ted’s slang, which consists of short clips from the film, and a description of what the two fellows are really saying.

    Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures – Cartoon Episode
    This episode from the Bill and Ted cartoon series is entitled “One Sweet and Sour Chinese Adventure To-Go”, and runs for 23 minutes.

    From Scribble to Script
    This massive archive features the actual pages from Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon’s original notes on the Bill and Ted characters and the first type-written script for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

    Radio Spots
    Five original radio commercials from the theatrical release are included.

    Promotional Materials
    Trailers for Spaceballs: SE, Saved!, Walking Tall and Hoosiers: CE are included, as is cover art for Much Ado About Nothing, Weekend at Bernie’s, The Princess Bride: SE, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and Tune in Tomorrow.


    Behind the Scenes Featurette – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
    This is a horrible-looking vintage featurette (6 ½ minutes in length), with Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, and others talking briefly about the story, the characters, air guitar, and the Bill and Ted vocabulary.

    The theatrical trailers for Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey are included on their respective discs. A teaser trailer for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is also included!


    (on a five-point scale)
    Movies: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Extras: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    On the whole, although these two films are undeniably dated, and Bogus Journey is noticeably weaker than Excellent Adventure they are still good for a few laughs. While I cannot say that makes them worthy of a purchase to those who do not think Bill and Ted are most excellent, those looking for a bit of fun or nostalgia could do worse than to give Bill and Ted’s two films a rental!

    Now it seems pretty obvious to me that fans who have not picked up Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure or Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey on DVD will want this set for two obvious reasons. First, in addition to the films themselves, the new “non-bogus” bonus disc contains some extras that are sure to be of interest to fans (and possibly amusing to non-fans just looking to become better acquainted with them as well). Secondly, the set will probably have a street price of around $20, which is not a bad deal for all you get!

    In closing, as mentioned above, the discs containing each film are absolutely identical to those released a couple of years prior. Why am I telling you this again? Well, if you already popped for the DVD releases for the films, and are contemplating picking this “most excellent collection” up, it will all boil down to how much you need/want to have the bonus materials in your collection, as that is really the only new addition to the set. Just how much of a fan are you?

    Stay tuned…
  2. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman

    That was a spoof of Bergman's classic The Seventh Seal -- one of the neat things about both Bill & Ted films was the somewhat (semi-)literary angles taken in such wacky material. [​IMG]

    I'd like to see the bonus material, but "upgrading" two discs that I already own will have to wait at this point. [​IMG]
  3. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Jul 19, 2003
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    I sold my disks to my sister to get this, I'm a sucker for extras, and I love these films. I've always felt a little partial to Bogus Journey.

    I did read that the set was recalled due to a live phone number on the box.
  4. Ravi K

    Ravi K Supporting Actor

    Feb 24, 2003
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    According to DavisDVD, the phone number on the top is a phone sex hotline. I picked one up before the recall.
  5. Shane_M

    Shane_M Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 8, 2004
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    You think someone would have tried the number before putting it on the boxart? 1-800-555-6969

  6. seanOhara

    seanOhara Supporting Actor

    Jun 9, 2005
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    They probably figured that since it's a "555" number there was need to check. I bet most people don't realize "555" is valid with 800 numbers.
  7. Mark Lucas

    Mark Lucas Second Unit

    Aug 3, 2005
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    So this is just both Bill & Ted movies packaged together with a bonus disc containing lite supplemental material. Still no deleted scenes. No commentary. Nothing that would make me want to buy it right now. What a shame, MGM.
  8. Shane_M

    Shane_M Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 8, 2004
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    I was disappointed as well just to see the same discs repackaged. I guess I expected more from MGM. Of course, they may have been rushed to release it with the merger being almost completed.
  9. Bill Buklis

    Bill Buklis Supporting Actor

    Apr 9, 1999
    Likes Received:
    Chicago, IL
    Real Name:
    Bill Buklis
    Oh that's way too funny. I do think it was one of the stupidest things the phone companies did when they allowed 555 to be used with toll free numbers. Just what were they thinking? I was shaking my head at the stupidity and the eventual problems it would cause when I first saw 800-555-xxxx used as a legitimate number. It was Gateway 2000, if I remember correctly, that has one of those numbers.

    Any one know if there is a "safe" prefix for 800/888/etc. numbers?

    I've always loved these films, but I picked them a while back for about $10 each, so need to get them again. Incidentally I have a friend named Ted that I've known since first grade (about 27 years now - Jeez! Has it been that long?)
  10. John*P

    John*P Second Unit

    May 27, 2004
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    I saw "Bogus Journey" for the first time recently. Was I mistaken, or are there wires/strings visible at the top of the screen when both of those weird orange creatures jump into the air to smash into each other? I could have sworn there were visible wires pulling them up...that completely took me out of the movie.

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