Prior to its first trailer, if you had told me there would be a sequel to the Bill & Ted movies in the year 2020 I would probably put a wager on it (and I’m not a betting man). Yet here we are with a brand new follow-up to the pair’s “Excellent Adventure” (1989) and “Bogus Journey” (1991). Some key names and familiar faces return most notably the two most excellent stars – Alex Winter as William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq. and Keanu Reeves as Theodore “Ted” Logan (insert air guitar here).
The first two Bill & Ted movies were very much simple and utterly absurd buddy comedies that had no allusions of being anything other than what they were. So expectations for the third film were pretty easy to keep in check. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” really only needed to do one thing to be a success – tap into the same frothy yet utterly charming nuttiness of its predecessors. Will it play well for younger audiences with no attachments to the original films? It’s hard to say. But for the rest of us there is just enough smile-inducing silliness and nostalgic allure to make Bill & Ted’s latest time-hopping romp worthwhile.
The lovable Wyld Stallyns have seen their rock-and-roll stock plummet. Bill & Ted’s once beloved band has gone from selling out big arenas to playing Elk’s Lodges on $2 Taco Night. But it barely phases the ever-content and perpetually optimistic best friends who push forward, still trying to write the song that will unite the world. How’s that for persistence?
In the meantime both are now married to their former girlfriends and 15th-century princesses from the previous films (Jayma Mays plays Bill’s wife Joanna, Erinn Hayes plays Ted’s wife Elizabeth). And both have teenage daughters with striking resemblances to their fathers, Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theodora “Thea” Preston (Samara Weaving).
While Bill and Ted’s friendship is stronger than ever, the inseparable bosom buddies can’t see the strain it’s having on their marriages. To add another kink, Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their old friend from the future Rufus (played in the earlier films by the late George Carlin), arrives in her time-traveling egg to inform Bill and Ted that they have been summoned by the Great Leader (Holland Taylor). And when the Great Leader summons you know things must be serious.
Kelly takes them to the future where they are told they have only 78 minutes to finally discover their song that will unite the world. Why? Who the heck knows? These movies have always pulled their ‘rules’ out of thin air. And who really cares when you’re given such delightfully corny lines like “The song is a nexus point that brings humanity into rhythm and harmony” and that without the song “reality will collapse and time and space will cease to exist“. Those are all the ‘rules’ I need.
Of course more time-bopping ensues as Bill & Ted reunite with their magic phone booth and travel to the future hoping to find their all-important song. Meanwhile Billie and Thea convince Kelly to take them to the past, searching different time periods in order to assemble the greatest band in history to help play their fathers’ song. Again, the goofiness of it all will be too much for some people to handle, but director Dean Parisot along with his cast and crew fully embrace it. If they hadn’t, this would have been a disaster.
“Face the Music” is a bit of a miracle. The screenwriters for the original films Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon started working on this script a decade ago. It took several drafts to get the story right and just as much effort to find funding. Yet here we are, with one of the most unlikeliest of sequels. One that surprisingly feels right at home with its 30-year-old forerunners. There are a few awkward moments where the dialogue clangs and the now 55-year-old actors can’t always muster the same youthful silliness to make every scene work. But Reeves and Winter put a lot of heart into Bill & Ted. They love these characters and we can tell. Did we really ‘need’ another movie? Not really. Am I glad we got one? “Totally dude”. By the way, stay till the end. There is a post-credits scene that is…how shall I put it…most triumphant. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is out today in theaters and on VOD.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS