Bill & Ted Trilogy – 1989, 1991 and 2020

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – 1989
Director Stephen Harek
Screenplay Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Amy Stock-Poynton, Hal Landon Jr., Frazier Bain

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – 1991
Director – Pete Hewitt
Screenplay Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Starring Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, William Sadler, Joss Ackland, George Carlin, Amy Stock-Poynton, Hal Landon Jr., Pam Grier

Bill & Ted Face The Music – 2020
Director Dean Parisot
Screenplay Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Amy Stock-Poynton, Hal Landon Jr.

When it first arrived, I thought it was a paycheck for Carlin, with a couple of idiots (Reeves and Winter) we’d not hear from much in the future. For one of these actors, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The latter, Winter, has been behind the scenes, outside of the two sequels.

There is a remarkable consistency to this most improbable of series. If one hates the first movie, it’s sequels are not going to win anyone over. I can say I didn’t like the first or second film for decades. Spending the last 20 years with my wife and both of us raising a daughter who appreciated the films has warmed me over a touch.

The story is the various trips through time of a clueless duo who stumble into famous people of the past, enlisting them to help as they try to solve problems, many of which they cause. They pick up a couple of princesses from the medieval times, marry them and have children.

The story doesn’t matter as much as the consistent theme and execution of the jokes. Throughout the trilogy, the duo constantly find seemingly ludicrous, but sensible from a partier’s perspective. The first two show two young actors who have nothing to lose. By the time we get to the third film, it’s an obvious labor of love. One wishes more comedies could have these types of reunions.

That said, all of these films play like a celebration of saving the world while trying to do as little as possible. If they put more effort into their performances, the films would almost be worse. As it stands, the acting is somewhere between high school drama club and one of those Kirk Cameron movies, where everyone in the church takes a role.

That anyone achieved greatness in this group (aside from Carlin, who already made his name) is astounding. I had this team somewhere in the area of Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore. This series requires a willing suspension of disbelief that one could work so hard at looking like they’re not working at all. By the third film, you have to appreciate how much Reeves and Winter are putting into looking so bad.

I do appreciate the subplot with the babysitter turned step mom 2x and then sister in law. It took courage to even take that joke into the second film. Carlin is suitably replaced by his daughter Schaal for a thankless role. I like the insecure robot played by Carrigan and William Sadler invests a large amount of energy to play death.

All this to say, I appreciate these films more now in hindsight than I ever could when I was younger. With less time to waste, this trilogy finally feels like less a waste of my precious hours.

(*** out of *****) for the trilogy.

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