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Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music

August 28, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

It’s been nearly thirty years since Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves appeared in a movie together as teenaged airheads Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan, two dimwitted but likeable dudes who were a blast to hang out with as they bumbled their ways through time, space, and the afterlife.

Now the stars of the 1989 time-hopping comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and its even wackier 1991 sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, have reunited once again for Bill & Ted Face the Music. The result is a mostly enjoyable legacy sequel that catches up with them as middle aged men who, for better and for worse, are still mostly stuck in the same place as their younger selves.

Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are now dads who couldn’t be prouder of their young adult daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), who act like them, talk like them, and also spend their days rocking out to music in the garage. But they are struggling to reclaim the success of their band Wyld Stallyns, and their respective marriages to the Princesses, Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays), whom they rescued from England circa the 15th century, are on the rocks.

The plot itself is derivative of the first two films. The first one found Bill and Ted being visited from the future by Rufus (the late George Carlin, who has a hologram cameo here) and racing against time to complete their history exam and keep their band together, being told that one day their music will provide the basis for civilization. The second one gave them the deadline of competing in a Battle of the Bands. This latest adventure finds them needing to perform the song that we already know from the first two is supposed to unite the universe, which is a pretty natural jumping off point for a third instalment.

This time around, Bill and Ted are visited from the future by Rufus’s daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal), who informs them they only have 77 minutes to write and perform this song that has been prophesied to unite the world, or else the universe as we know it will collapse. Stuck in a creative rut and out of ideas, Bill and Ted instead hatch a plan to go to the future after they have written the song and steal it from themselves, but things inevitably go awry.

Like most legacy sequels, Bill & Ted Face the Music also serves as a passing of the torch to a new generation, with Bill and Ted’s daughters playing a major role in the story. Weaving and Lundy-Paine do nice work channelling the title characters, and the film branches off to follow Thea and Billie as they go on their own time travel adventure to collect famous musicians from across history, allowing for some fun characterizations of well known figures. These are some of the film’s best and most enjoyable moments, recapturing the spirit of the original.

Like the first two, Bill & Ted Face the Music is written by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who do a fine job of bringing the story full circle and building upon plot points from their earlier films. Several of the original supporting players are also given the chance to reprise their roles, including Hal Landon Jr. as Ted’s strict police officer father, and William Sadler as Death, who was a scene-stealer in Bogus Journey and is again here. It’s also fun to see Amy Stoch reprise her role as Missy, who consecutively served as love interest and then stepmother to both Bill and Ted and now, in an amusing turn of events, is marrying Ted’s little brother Deacon (Beck Bennett).

It’s almost needless to say that Bill & Ted Face the Music rests heavily on nostalgia, and it can feel a bit like watching a reunion show. The cast members have returned to play all their hits, but they are visibly older (Reeves in particular, with his voice now quite a bit deeper) and it’s not quite the same. It’s also hard to get around the fact that watching teenagers act like carefree, perpetually unbothered slackers is amusing, but watching middle aged dudes act like this can be a bit sad, which, to its credit, the film does actually sort of acknowledge.

Winter has gone on to become a successful documentary filmmaker, and Reeves a popular action star, and the appeal of this belated sequel rests solely on how much you want to see them trying to resurrect these classic roles from their past. I do think there is still a fair bit of entertainment value to be found in revisiting these characters, and Bill & Ted Face the Music does prove to be a largely satisfying film that certainly doesn’t tarnish the legacy of the first two.

The film is directed by Dean Parisot, who already proved his worth doing this sort of comedy with the 1999 cult classic Galaxy Quest, and he does a decent job of capturing the comedic, fantastical, and at times surreal tone of the earlier films. Yes, like many examples of it being hard to go back, it’s not quite the same. But with a lot of fun callbacks for fans and some inventive new moments, Bill & Ted Face the Music is still an easily entertaining finale to the amusing saga of Bill and Ted.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is being released today in selected theatres and on demand. It’s being distributed in Canada by VVS Films.

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