‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Review: A Most Bodacious Return
Just because you can travel through time doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. 25 years ago, Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan were wide-eyed wannabe rock stars. A man from the future told them their music would be so awesome, it would change the world.
Bill and Ted’s adventures were a bit more excellent than the rest of us, but every young person thinks they’re going to make the world a better place when they get older. Then they do get older, and despite their best intentions, so many of them fall short of those big dreams. So did Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves). By the end of 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, they had literally been to hell and back, and stood on the verge of their promised utopia. Not to spoil the movie for you, but in case you haven’t noticed: 2020 ain’t no utopia.
Sure enough, Bill & Ted Face the Music finds the two buds still hanging out in a garage, trying to write that one magical song that will solve all the planet’s problems. All the while, Bill and Ted’s personal problems have continued to mount. Their wives are growing restless, and Ted’s police captain dad is still disappointed in him. At a family wedding, Captain Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) tells Bill and Ted to grow up and become better role models for their music-loving daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine). It wouldn’t be much of a movie if they did, and before long a new visitor arrives from the future, sending our the dad dudes off on another excellent quest.
This one, directed by Galaxy Quest’s Dean Parisot and written by the franchise’s creators, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, manages to combine a lot of the signature elements from Bogus Journey and the original Excellent Adventure from 1989. There’s time travel, cameos from famous historical figures, killer robots from the future, several face-offs between Bill and Ted and other versions of themselves, air guitars, and an appearance by William Sadler’s Grim Reaper. Billie and Thea have a knack for remixing music, and the way Parisot, Matheson, and Solomon find new ways to blend together the stuff from the old movies feels like a satisfying nod in their direction.
Mostly, though, it’s just nice to hang out with Bill and Ted again. Even with the hundreds of teen comedies released in the 30 years since Excellent Adventure, they still feel like a unique duo. They talk like bros, but they don’t act like bros. They genuinely love each other, and pretty much everyone else. (The first two movies do contain some brief, regrettable homophobic jokes that I imagine all involved now wish they could use a time-traveling phone booth to erase from history.) Bill and Ted’s enthusiasm is infectious, and their sweetness is endearing. They are, at their very core, good dudes.
Winter and Reeves play the middle-aged Bill and Ted exactly right. They are a bit older, and absolutely no wiser. They still talk the same way, and they still love each other dearly. They keep screwing things up and keep trying to fix them, because that’s what we all do. Winter and Reeves have done most of their interviews for Face the Music together, and have stressed that they’ve remained friends since the first Bill & Ted. Their affection for one another and these characters radiates off the screen like San Dimas sunshine.
Bill & Ted Face the Music breezes by for 95 minutes, cruising along with the same chill energy that Bill and Ted bring to every room they enter. It’s admittedly very slight, and the ending is way too abrupt. Still, Matheson and Solomon managed to make a movie about how life’s accumulating failures can turn people cynical without making Bill and Ted into cynics themselves. (At least not the Bill and Ted of 2020; in their travels, they get to explore dark roads not yet taken, like George Baileys who got a time machine instead of a guardian angel.)
It’s harder than ever to believe in the idyllic land of harmony foretold in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. 2020 is the most non-non-heinous year of my lifetime. Perhaps that’s why Bill & Ted Face the Music’s optimism in the face of the apocalypse feels so welcome. It suggests that even if a song could never fix the universe, maintaining hope can be a world-changing act. Bill & Ted might be about life’s disappointments, but it is not one of them.
-Bill and Ted Face the Music is being released simultaneously in theaters and on premium VOD. I was given a screener to watch at home, and it worked just fine that way. I would advise you to rent this movie at home while enjoying a beverage or two. That seems like a most excellent viewing experience.
-The best new character in Face the Music is a robot from the future that pursues Bill and Ted across space and time. (Even his name is a joke that’s so good I refuse to spoil it.) He’s played beautifully by actor Anthony Carrigan beneath a lot of heavy makeup in a way that’s surprising and absolutely true to the spirit of these franchise.
-The solution to Bill and Ted’s problem was obvious to me from the movie’s first trailer, and it is indeed the solution they eventually find at the end of their journey. Just because it is not surprising does not make it unsatisfying. Sometimes the obvious ending is obvious because it is the right one.
-Don’t miss the post-credits scene, dudes.
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