I’d love to say that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey inspired within me a deep and life-long fascination for the work of Ingmar Bergman, but outside of a couple of the big hitters, I’ve remained too immature to fully delve in to the dense and sombre filmography of world cinema’s foremost SERIOUS MAN. Among those big hitters, though, was of course The Seventh Seal. I am sure I can’t be alone in attributing my even knowing about the existence of this film to the antics of the recently-deceased erstwhile time travellers of Wyld Stallyns. Proving that a great gag can exist even without the audience being fully clued in to the context of what is being satirised, the introduction of William Sadler’s Death in the film perfectly sums up the high/low approach to comedy that exists in both Bill & Ted movies, but reaches arguably its apex in the sequel. Its characters are played and written as, well, naïve. Uncultured. OK, dumb. But the creativity and weirdness of the situations they find themselves in, and the crackerjack timing with which Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves react to it all, is as sharp and smart as you could wish for.
It’s hard to nail down, exactly, what these films are. Our panel today (myself, Gali, and our esteemed guest Richard Jackson) all fell utterly in love with the films as young children, especially this sequel. So they appealed to kids aged between 6-8 years old. The day-glo antics and the immaturity and lack of guile of the lead characters would suggest that they were intended for a very young audience. But they are also cult items, beloved to this day in a way that the more straightforwardly youth-oriented fare we adored as kids that we have since shrugged off could never hope to be. Nostalgia looms as large as it ever does in these ventures, of course, but I get the feeling that the Bill & Ted movies’ appeal to kids is on the less cynical end of the spectrum, and results purely from the filmmakers (especially creator/writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson) just trying to make the best version they could of something they themselves wanted to see on screen. Whether this is true or not, that’s at least the feeling that radiates from the screen no matter how silly and dopey things get – a lack of cynicism within the whole project that manifests within the sweet, guileless, well-meaning Bill S. Preston, esq. and “Ted” Theodore Logan. It’s that kind of authenticity which means that a trio of 30-something cynics can happily chatter away about the exact mechanics of a Melvin just as enthusiastically as they would have on the playgrounds of the early 90s.