Back in the 80’s, we took a lot of things for granted with films – like time travelling in a DeLorean, realizing that vampires can come from Santa Clara, and, yes, that an alien can use a Speak and Spell to call his home. The Bill and Ted movies are kind of like that, following a young Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as two dunderheads that not only travel through time, but also get killed and manage to return for revenge with help from the Grim Reaper. Hey, grain of salt, people – these are cinematic classics.
Shout! Factory realizes this and continues its run of giving 80’s classics another chance on Blu-Ray with Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Collection, which features both Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (from 1989) and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991 – but close enough for this scenario). The good news is that both films have been given the proper treatment, even if the material itself may have people thinking whether the lead stars are stoned out of their minds. (Nope, they’re just delightfully goofy.)
Excellent Adventure follows Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) as they suddenly find themselves at risk of being torn apart due to failing grades in school, with Ted’s dad threatening to send him to military school. Enter Rufus (George Carlin), a most excellent guide who gives them access to a time machine, where they pursue to grab Abe Lincoln, Billy the Kid and others for a presentation. Of course, goofy stuff follows, with Napoleon going bowling (and eating the Ziggy Piggy) and Beethoven going wild in a music store in the mall. But it’s all in good fun, and both Reeves and Winter, along with the rest of the cast, retain their likable charm.
Faring much differently is Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, as a mastermind named De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) sends a pair of robots into the past to kill the duo. However, they find themselves on the comeback trail after defeating Death (William Sadler – who now plays the President in the Marvel universe) and team up with some aliens to get back at the “evil robot Us’s” with their own creations. Again, it’s silly, but the stars and the writers – Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson – have a good time with it.
It all really depends how much you can stand the source material, but I found Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Collection to be a wonderful throwback to more innocent days, when we could easily accept so much stuff happening and just have fun with it – even while things run seriously afoot at the Circle K.
Even though there are minor picture issues with the video (we are talking 80’s movies), both films look great in the Blu-Ray format, as corny as the special effects may be. The audio is also most bodacious, especially with the music riffs and trying to sort out Bill and Ted’s accents. (“WHOAAAAAAA” is pretty simple to come by.) They’re not Pacific Rim-quality transfers, but for 80’s stuff, Shout! Factory sets a great standard.
But it’s with the extras that the team nails it out of the park. For both movies, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon provide commentary, along with producer Scott Kroopf and star Alex Winter on another track. They’ve got plenty of great stories, including what’s up with Bill and Ted 3…which, sadly, still has a ways to go. There are also trailers, for those of you feeling nostalgic. They’re not quite that cleaned up, though.
The real content lies in the third disc. There are two retrospective pieces for each film, and, huzzah, they got Keanu Reeves to take part, along with Winter and plenty of co-stars. Hearing their stories are a lot of fun, even though both documentary pieces clock in around an hour or so. I would’ve liked more, but this is quite serviceable. There’s also a classic Most Triumphant Making of documentary that’s worth a look, along with a lengthy conversation with Chris and Ed. Other pieces include a great documentary focusing on the historical types featured in the film; an air guitar tutorial by the Rockness Monster (yes, that’s his name) and Bjorn Turoque; a vintage EPK for Bogus Journey; and a great breakdown of linguistics for the pair of stars.
However, one real treat is Steve Vai, a guitarist who specializes in most excellent riffs. He provides some great background behind rock themes, and is well worth a watch. If only he made it into the films…
Oh, and Shout! also threw in a pair of old-school postcards and a Wyld Stallyns (the band name) guitar pick, for you happy collectors out there. There’s also a special collector’s edition with a Rufus figurine in a phone booth, if you really want to go the extra mile on 80’s motif.
No, the Bill and Ted movies didn’t age in the greatest manner, but who cares? They remind us of a greater time for film, one in which anything was possible and we had a lot of fun with it. Both movies are still a blast, even if the original Excellent Adventure is a bit better, and the performances continue to be good fun. Throw in a number of abundant extras and collectible goodies, and you have another winner you should add to your movie collection. To miss out would be, to quote these two, “most heinous.”