In the one funny sequence in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, our most excellent heroes (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter), having been shoved off a cliff by a couple of Bill-and-Ted robot terminators from the future, attempt to barter for their lives by playing games with the Grim Reaper. As it turns out, he’s a bit of a sore loser. After being defeated in rounds of Battleship and Clue, he insists they play three out of five. This clash-of-cultures gag keeps escalating — it’s The Seventh Seal meets The Naked Gun. But for most of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the two stars look lost, stranded. Spun off from Sean Penn’s stoned Valley Boy surfer in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Bill and Ted had an ineffable brain-dead charm in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), which took off from a clever, satirical premise: It was about the education of these two blissed-out all-American metal-heads. The new movie, which is about how the scruffy pair save the world (or something), sends them to heaven and hell and everywhere in between. The sets are impressive, but the joke has worn perilously thin.
Once again, Bill and Ted pepper their patented dudespeak with $10 vocabulary words and weird binary reversals designed to make them sound smart (attempting to sum up a disastrous situation, Bill says, ”This is most non-non-heinous”). Where the pair’s antic verbal fumblings once seemed vaguely hip, by now the routine doesn’t have a whisper of surprise. The characters have already been improved upon by Saturday Night Live’s Wayne and Garth, who have the immense advantage — well, at least Wayne does — of actually mixing a few witty observations into their party-hearty chatter. If any character steals Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, it’s the Grim Reaper, who, as played by William Sadler, keeps smirking with pleasure at the chance to loosen up. C-