Synopsis – Once told they’d save the universe during a time-traveling adventure, 2 would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny.
My Take – If you thought Christopher Nolan‘s Tenet was the only time travel (or inversion I guess) based film to release this past weekend, you were wrong, as it also saw the 29 year old return of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in their landmark roles of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan.
Released back in 1989, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure saw Winter and Reeves as two high-school fools who, while celebrating their tiny victories playing air guitars, would hilariously travel through time to put together a history-class presentation. But indeed, it was 1991 the last time we saw the Wyld Stallyns in action in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The strangely wonderful sequel to it’s somewhat less strange wonderful predecessor may not have delivered at the box office, but much like its predecessor it struck a chord with fans and continued to remain a cult classic especially for those who enjoyed the lingo the film adopted.
Though serious chatter about a third film has been on for decades, it has finally arrived with director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) helming. Honestly, while it may not have seemed like the world needed another Bill & Ted film, I am glad as original series writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon were able to churn out another one that is as wonderfully weird as its predecessors.
Like the previous two, this film also works like a friendly fluff, with Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves continuing to remain charming together, but most significantly, it works as a fun, funny and satisfying send-off for both Bill and Ted, who have obviously aged out of being the Wyld Stallyns, leaving us with what might be the most improbably great trilogy of all time.
Set 29 years after the events of the last film, the story once again follows Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves), who now well into the middle age have fallen from grace. Instead of uniting the world like the future promised, their band, Wyld Stallyns, fell apart following their rift with Death (William Sadler). As a result, Bill and Ted have been stuck in perpetual motion as they try harder and harder to stay relevant while striking chords only with their daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving).
On top of that, their relationships with their wives, the Princess Joanna (Jayma Mays) and Princess Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes), has begun to fray, as the two men are apparently incapable of doing anything independently of each other. And now, things have grown urgent as Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their old telephone-booth guide Rufus (the late George Carlin), has come from said future with bad news that their song must be performed in a matter of hours, or all reality will cease to exist. There’s just one problem: they still haven’t written it.
Fortunately, when you have a time machine a strict deadline isn’t your biggest problem. And so Bill and Ted decide to go forward to a point in time when their older selves will have already written the song and get it from them. That’s theoretically where Billie and Thea come in, as the film is also a passing of the franchise torch to the younger generation.
Credit goes to stars Reeves, Winter and screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson for keeping the spirit and spark of first two film going here, by retaining the subtle intelligence and overt dumbness in equal measure. Also director Dean Parisot keeps things moving and coherent even with a time travel plot that loops around itself more times than any other.
A good reason to love these films is that they’re incredibly kind to their characters as the core joke of Bill and Ted has long been that whatever they experience doesn’t really change them – they’re just happy-go-lucky kids who want everyone around them to be as fulfilled as they are. But that also means they never really grow, despite some seriously profound experiences. The two men are sweet, but they’re also terribly dim, either speaking in unison or finishing each other’s sentences, all with a “Whoa, dude” surfer-bro attitude that hasn’t changed a lick in nearly 30 years.
Only the discovery that their wives leave them in a future timeline actually seems to get through to them. This one is about leading them to understand that, and honestly? It’s kind of wonderful.
The film is also true to its title, easily the most musically-minded of the three B&Ts, with “the song” being the film’s plot-driving Mcguffin. The series has always cast musicians like Jane Wiedlin, Clarence Clemons, Primus, and Jim Martin, but this time Dave Grohl and Kid Cudi have substantial roles as themselves, with Kudi in particular being the only character who really seems to understand what’s going on.
Sure, there are moments that don’t necessarily work as well as they should, and there are plot moves that feel a bit too fan service-y or as existing just to pad the time out to a proper feature length. But here now in 2020, we need a film this pure whether we really deserve it or not. This is a film that unabashedly wants to entertain and hopes to unite the world through the power of most excellent rock. It’s the kind of film that has come along just at the time that we need it the most, and whether it was a necessary film or not, it’s one I feel lucky that we have this year.
Performance wise, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves continue to have tons of fun with their characters, providing for some pretty epic sight gags and funny moments. Reeves especially has changed the most over the years; he’s a far sight from the Ted of the early 1990s. But he still captures the spirit of that character, while Winter slips easily back into the skin of Bill.
Brigette Lundy-Paine manages to captures Reeves’ Ted mannerisms perfectly, while Samara Weaving is a delight as always, William Sadler is a welcome return as Death, looking as if he hasn’t missed a single beat since stepping off the set of Bogus Journey, and Anthony Carrigan is hilarious as Dennis, the robot with a mission that he’s not particularly good at. In other roles, Kristen Schaal, Jillian Bell, Kid Cudi, Jayma Mays, Erinn Hayes, Beck Bennett, and Hal Landon Jr. are also good. On the whole, ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ is just as sweet, goofy and funny as its predecessors, making it a most triumphant time to watch.
Directed – Dean Parisot
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 91 minutes