Lest we forget though, Bill and Ted's previous adventure -- while on the dark side of excellent -- enjoyed bodacious boxoffice returns. No doubt a large audience is waiting for this sequel to Orion's 1989 surprise hit.
Yet if excellence in stupid humor can be measured at all, this journey seems the weaker of the two. Even the plotline lacks coherence.
''The Terminator'' meets ''Back to the Future'' here as bogus Bill and Ted robots from the 27th century journey back to present-day San Dimas, Calif., in an attempt to kill the duo and alter their positive influence on the future.
(This is special pleading, but is it possible to make this the last time-travel movie for awhile? The idea is starting to get real old.)
The bogus Bill and Ted do, in fact, kill the real pair, who wind up in hell, which resembles a labyrinth of childhood horrors, such as having to kiss your grandmother who has bad teeth on the mouth.
To escape hell, Bill and Ted must beat the Grim Reaper in a series of kids' games. This spoof of Ingmar Bergman
's ''The Seventh Seal'' is easily the movie's brightest comic idea.
When the Grim Reaper loses badly, he is obliged to accompany Bill and Ted for the rest of their journey back to life. And thank goodness he does.
William Sadler's Grim Reaper is the life of this otherwise grim party. His dead-pan comments and dead-earnest efforts to serve his new masters provide the film's only inspired clowning.
The rest of the movie is a messy melange of Halloween costumes, special effects and unspecial jokes.
The basic problem lies in Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon's screenplay. It strains for every joke, which brings a peculiar tension, if not desperation, to the humor.
In anxiously shuffling between various levels of reality, they never firmly plant their comedy in any one. ''Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey'' is more a free association of tired comic ideas than a comedy that unravels from a central spring.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves
again play Bill and Ted, respectively, not to mention the Bill and Ted robots and the Bill and Ted ghosts. The two still manage to play these airhead, would-be rock 'n' rollers with conviction.
George Carlin also returns from the original film. But he disappears for most of the journey. only to reveal he has been present all along in Pam Grier
's body. We don't even want to think about what that implies.
Director Pete Hewitt and editor David Finfer
keep the scenes flowing as fast as possible. But when a film's basic rhythm is overdrive, it exhausts rather than amuses an audience.
Cinematographer Oliver Wood expertly blends the various dimensions created by designer David L. Snyder. Rock songs layered over the action exist more to promote Inter-
Cinematographer Oliver Wood expertly blends the various dimensions created by designer David L. Snyder. Rock songs layered over the action exist more to promote Inter-scope Records' soundtrack album than to help the movie's journey along.
BILL & TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY
Director Pete Hewitt
Producer Scott Kroopf
Executive producers Ted Field
, Robert W. Cort
Writers Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Director of photography Oliver Wood
Production designer David L. Synder
Music David Newman
Editor David Finfer
Costume designer Marie France
Bill Alex Winter
Ted Keanu Reeves
Grim Reaper William Sadler
De Nomolos Joss Ackland
Rufus George Carlin
Miss Wardroe Pam Grier
Missy Amy Stock-Poyton
Elizabeth Annette Azcuy
Joanna Sarah Trigger
Running time -- 98 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
(c) The Hollywood Reporter