The goofy duo is back with a midlife crisis that could end life as we know it
By Diana Beechener
When we last heard from Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter: Robot Chicken) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves: Toy Story 4), they had fulfilled their destiny of creating music that would inspire a utopian future. Their band Wyld Stallyns had defeated Death (and recruited him to play bass), traveled through time to find love, and played a most excellent tune that united the world and created an awesome future.
Only…things didn’t go quite like that.
The band had one hit, that didn’t really unite the world. After the band broke up, Bill and Ted floundered. They now play taco nights at a dive bar and are desperately attempting to come up with a song that will save the future. Their wives try to be understanding, but it’s hard to have a successful marriage when both Bill and Ted refuse to do anything without the other.
The only people who still truly believe in Bill and Ted are their daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine: Atypical) and Thea (Samara Weaving: Hollywood), who are carbon copies of their spacey, goofy dads. The girls believe their fathers’ quest to create the perfect song is most righteous, and spend their days listening to records and supporting their dads. They know it’s just a matter of time before greatness strikes.
There’s only one problem: Time itself seems to be folding in on itself. Historical figures are popping in and out of time periods. Jesus replaces Babe Ruth at the plate at Yankee Stadium, Babe Ruth finds himself crossing the Delaware during the American Revolution, and George Washington is wandering around Jerusalem wondering where his troops went. It’s pretty bogus.
The Great Ones call Bill and Ted to the future and give them a reality check: If the boys don’t create the greatest song in the world in 17 hours, space and time will collapse. That’s a lot of pressure to put on two dudes from San Dimas, Calif. The boys decide to go time traveling again to ask their future selves for some help saving the universe.
Can Bill and Ted write the ultimate song and save the world? Or is humanity in for a bogus journey?
It occurred to this reviewer while watching the movie that there are whole generations of people who only know Keanu Reeves as that guy from The Matrix or John Wick. But back in the dark ages of the late ‘80s, that action movie star had eked out a career playing dopey surfer dude stereotypes in ludicrous comedy movies. If you’ve never seen Reeves play dumb, or never heard of Bill & Ted this is not the film to start your education with. Bill & Ted Face the Music is a comedy designed for people who were alive way back then. It might seem a little odd to people who didn’t grow up saying dude and heinous in regular conversations.
Director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) does something that Disney has failed to do several times now: He successfully reworks a nostalgic property and captures what audiences loved about the original 30+ years ago, but updates the subject matter for more modern sensibilities. Parisot uses a deft hand to remind viewers of why this wacky series was popular in the first place. He peppers in plenty of references to the first films as well as some great pop culture jokes. The whole film is breezy fanservice that captures the zany sweetness of the Bill & Ted series while keeping the plot moving. This is not a great film, but it will entertain fans of the first movies, and in 2020, that’s pretty high praise.
The best part of a Bill & Ted movie is the undying friendship between the main characters. Their bond is unshakable, even when the universe is ending. It’s endearing to see such a wholesome portrayal of male friendship. While Reeves clearly has fun reviving his surfer bro persona, it’s Winter, who transitioned from acting to documentary directing, who really shines in this revival. Winter’s Bill is a loving airhead who desperately wants to do the right thing. He dives into adventure with excitement, always happy to meet a version of himself on his travels. As he and Ted begin encountering darker and darker versions of their future selves, Bill begins to question how they’re choosing to live their lives.
Another boon to the films is William Sadler (God Friended Me) reprising his role as Death. He chews the scenery as a moody, petulant artist who’s mad at the boys after a musical falling out. It’s a clever riff on Bergman’s The Seventh Seal and Sadler makes the most of every scene.
Though there are some plot and pacing problems, it’s hard to hold much against a movie that’s so optimistic about humanity. This is a film that deeply believes that humanity is fundamentally good and worth saving. Bill & Ted Face the Music isn’t a groundbreaking comedy, but it is an enjoyable one. Perhaps a film built on the philosophy Be Excellent to Each Other is the type of film we need in 2020.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is available to rent for $19.99 via Amazon or iTunes.
Good Nostalgic Comedy * PG-13 * 91 mins.