After a nearly 30-year absence, Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore" Logan are back for more wacky adventures through time in the long-awaited Bill & Ted Face the Music, which sees the titular duo — once again most amiably played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, respectively — out to fulfill their grand destiny to unite the world through the power of music. For a sequel that could have easily failed to recapture what had worked decades earlier, the end result is a lean but far from bogus amusement that largely delivers.Because of the sheer age difference in the characters and the place where they’re at now in their lives, Bill & Ted Face the Music has a hint of ruefulness missing from the earlier flicks. The duo may have previously concluded that the best time to be is now, but the personal and professional travails of middle age have challenged that earlier judgment. They still love their medieval princess wives — recast here with Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes — and have two adult daughters named after one another, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine). But nearly three decades later their once-excellent rock careers have waned, and Bill and Ted wrestle with the notion that they may need to give up on their music dreams. That’s when the future intercedes with a mission for them to finally compose the song they were meant to make — or reality itself will be destroyed in a matter of hours. A most heinous challenge!
No mere exercise in Gen X nostalgia, Bill & Ted Face the Music manages to recapture both the spirit and energy of the earlier films while still acknowledging the clear passage of time. The movie doesn’t avoid the characters’ ages but instead shows that, even in their fifties, Bill and Ted are man-children who are hopelessly codependent on each other. They are platonic soulmates. Their naivete may have waned a tad but they’re still just immature and dopey enough to lack the necessary self-awareness; that’s where their time-traveling adventures have always come in to enlighten them.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves still have the same doofy chemistry they had decades ago, not missing a beat from their first scene to immediately recapture what made them such a fun screen pairing. If Winter and Reeves didn’t click all these years later then Bill & Ted Face the Music would be dead on arrival but, thankfully, they still have infectious chemistry together.Movie Sequels That Took ForeverThe movie has a few nostalgic callbacks, from the welcome and hilarious return of William Sadler as the fame-and-friend-craving Death to the B-plotline revolving around Billie and Thea’s sidequest to help their dads. But this third film isn’t so much interested in playing Wyld Stallyns’ greatest hits as it is in exploring the idea of how long do you dedicate your life to your seemingly hopeless dream, to something you felt you had to do. Through the course of their time travels here, Bill and Ted encounter versions of their slightly future selves who serve to show them the areas of their lives where they’re deficient and glimpses of what might be in store for them should they fail. That sounds a lot headier and darker than the movie is but it’s sort of like the Bill & Ted version of Scrooge meeting the Christmas Ghosts in order for him to evolve.
Winter and Reeves may still click as Bill and Ted, but the movie doesn’t always give their offspring Thea and Billie enough to chew on to really come into their own. As Ted’s daughter Billie, Brigette Lundy-Paine shines brighter than Samara Weaving as Bill’s kid, Thea. Lundy-Paine seems more comfortable in such decidedly American vernacular and attitude than Aussie co-star Weaving and is more believable as the offspring of their particular screen dad. Still, the pair have chemistry together that somewhat papers over the story’s shortcomings in developing them. Of the remaining supporting cast, Holland Taylor makes for a suitably imperious Great Leader from the future, while Kristen Schaal nicely underplays this film’s surrogate for George Carlin’s too cool Rufus. Anthony Carrigan scores some laughs as a sort of sad-sack Terminator.
The 1989 original film saw some of history’s most notable figures team-up to help our heroes, something the sequel Bogus Journey skipped in order to focus on a threat from the future. Bill & Ted Face the Music splits the difference, bringing in a future threat while also reaching into the past for help for our heroes. There’s even a segue to Hell just to cover all the bases of what fans liked most about the first two films.
But, like the original films, Bill & Ted Face the Music remains good without ever quite grasping greatness. Perhaps it’s the inherently skit-like or predictable nature of such slight material, but the Bill & Ted trilogy never quite attained Excellence so much as cult admiration. Still, this third film definitely avoids the curse of the disappointing threequel and is certainly far from Bogus. Bill & Ted Face the Music is simply a sweet, fun, good time. Be excellent to each other.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is a pleasant escape for the quarantine-stricken, a sweet and entertaining romp that defies expectations by largely recapturing what worked about the series so many years later. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter rekindle their past chemistry almost instantly, even if their successors, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving, aren’t always quite as well-served by (or as comfortable with) the daft material. Still, the whole ensemble cast is entertaining and the movie itself proves a good-natured distraction from our own grim time.