It’s been nearly three decades since we last experienced a new exploit with one of the most excellent duos in cinematic history, Bill and Ted! After all these years, Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan are back for a most resplendent new adventure through time to prevent reality from collapsing in on itself! But with all the time that has passed in between films, are the great ones still great? Would Bill & Ted have been better left in the past? Is this a most triumphant return to form, or a totally egregious misstep?
‘Bill & Ted: Face The Music’ picks up our story in almost real time, with our titular heroes dealing with the fact that they have yet to live up to the future they were promised. The band ‘Wyld Stallyns’ failed to take off in any meaningful way and is all but a memory, with the guys relegated to playing Ted’s brother’s wedding. The Princesses are fed up with waiting for things to get better and the only thing that our most righteous dudes have going well for them is that their now adult daughters adore them and are following in their footsteps (and you could argue that isn’t exactly the best thing for the girls). Worst of all, they still haven’t written the song that is supposed to unite the world!
We don’t want to spoil any plot points here, but as you can probably surmise from the trailers, the guys find out that they’re running out of time to get that song written! Reality has begun to unravel, and the guys only have a few hours left to come up with ‘the song’! Naturally, they decide to highjack their trusty old phone booth time machine in order to go into the future and take (*steal*) the song from their future selves (who would have ideally already written it). Meanwhile, their daughters Billie and Thea (Little Bill and Little Ted!) also jump into a time machine of their own for a most excellent adventure in an effort to put together the greatest band of all time to play ‘the song’ alongside their dads. But will it all be enough to save reality?
Diving right in, its great to see the guys back. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves have undeniable chemistry together even after all of these years and its a joy to see them together again as Bill and Ted. This movie exists entirely because they willed it into existence and they’re clearly having fun with it. That said? It MAY have been too long. I love Bill and Ted as characters, and while I understand that the entire plot of the film is “they got old”, its weird to see these two again after all this time and see that neither of them has really grown at all. They remain caricatures of their teenage selves while in their middle-aged bodies.
Alex Winter is definitely at the top of his game and has been greatly missed as an on screen talent, while Keanu is… kind of weird here. I personally love Keanu Reeves as an actor, but its odd to see him trying to do a role like Ted Logan again after spending nearly three decades playing much more serious characters. While you can tell he is having fun with it, Ted doesn’t really smile anymore and it’s off-putting. When you look at him now, versus his earlier appearances as the character, they don’t feel the same. Keanu spent so many years trying to escape the ‘Ted’ image that now he can’t seem to find his way back to it, which is disappointing.
As far as the rest of the cast? Its a treat to see the return of fan favorites like Hal Landon Jr., Amy Stoch and of course William Sadler back as Chief Logan, Missy, and Death respectively. Much like last time around, Sadler steals the show every time he’s on screen and my only regret is that I wish he showed up sooner. The Princesses have been recast again (having never being played by the same actresses twice) and Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays are perfectly serviceable in the roles. We get Kristen Schaal filling in as the daughter of the late George Carlin’s ,Rufus from the previous films, along with Holland Taylor as her mother and a super fun performance from Anthony Carrigan as the killer robot Dennis Caleb McCoy (another scene stealer for sure!).
The real breakout stars of the show here are Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Thea Preston and Billie Logan, who are most outstanding in their brief screentime. If the franchise were to continue onward in some form and follow these two in lieu of their fathers for a full adventure, I would definitely be on board for that. It’s really great to watch the two of them fall so effortlessly into the rolls of people who are most definitely their father’s daughters.
As a whole, the story works pretty well, but you also get the distinct feeling that the writers put themselves in a weird position. It feels like they knew what they wanted to do for the journey, but had no idea how to bring everything full circle for proper closure. The idea of Bill and Ted traveling through time to meet with various future versions of themselves is a fun device, but after the third or fourth time it starts getting stale. Meanwhile Billie and Thea are essentially following along the same path that the very first ‘Excellent Adventure’ took us on, with the major difference being that they’re plucking iconic musicians from history instead of general historical figures.
The ‘song to unite the world’ is an impossible task. Its the ultimate ‘McGuffin’ because its something so unobtainable. So to find ourselves reaching the climax of the film with some of history’s greatest musicians (including Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong) in play, it felt like the entire film culminates in a very abrupt ending that felt overall lacking for such a beloved franchise. We waited almost thirty years for an ending to this story that doesn’t feel rewarding or satisfying, and when the credits begin to roll it just leaves you saying “Wait what? Thats it?”.
The biggest and arguably most criminal offense that this movie commits is that we are given a ‘Bill & Ted’ film with a severe lack of rock music! How are the great ones supposed to party on and save reality when the soundtrack is mostly generic overplay music with almost no actual songs featured? It may have been due to licensing costs and the film’s budget, but for a movie about what is supposed to be the greatest band of all time, there was a severe lack of music happening in the film. Even when the credits roll, we end up with Cold War Kids ‘Story Of Our Lives’, which is a very non ‘Bill & Ted’ feeling song. The soundtrack has a lot of bands listed, but where is the rock music in the actual film?
Even with all of that said, it’s really hard not to give ‘Bill & Ted: Face The Music’ a pass based purely on nostalgia alone. It’s impossible not to enjoy seeing these two back in action, and we get quite a lot of screen time with the pair of them in various forms! The story is simple enough that it works, the casting is solid all around, but as a whole the movie just feels a little late on delivery. It Is by no means a bad film, but it’s also by no means a great or particularly memorable film either. Being honest, it may just be that I personally hold the first two films in a higher pedestal than I do a lot of other movies. ‘Bogus Journey’ gave us a wholly satisfying ending that wrapped up the story of these characters in a way that worked perfectly, and ‘Face The Music’ undoes all of that.
‘Bill & Ted: Face The Music’ is a film that allows us to revisit these classic characters years later and extend their story a bit in a way that feels a bit lacking. If you love the first two films, this one is a nice way to check in with the great ones, but try to keep your expectations in check as the lackluster finale will almost definitely leave you wanting. At the end of the day, a modest effort was made at bringing back this long dormant franchise. The cast is great, the story works well,, and in a year full of bad news it’s probably one of the more positive experiences you’ll have in 2020 . It’s full of fanservice in a lot of great ways, but fails to stick the landing in the end. Then again, a good rock show will leave the crowd screaming for one more song… maybe this isn’t the last we will be seeing of the Preston and Logan families?
Rating: 2.5 Out Of 5 Atoms