A long time ago, there was a movie made called BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989). It was the story of William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) who lived in San Dimas, California in the late 1980s. Bill and Ted were a pair of teen slackers who loved metal, but weren’t too bright academically and were close to dropping out of high school. Worse still, it seemed they would have to give up their band Wild Stallyns. Unbeknownst to them, their music and their band were instrumental in the creation of a future Utopian society. With the help of a character from the future, called Rufus (George Carlin), Bill and Ted travelled through time, learned about the past, succeeded in writing an excellent historical report and set themselves on the way to becoming the band that created that Utopian future.
Then, a couple of years later there was BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) in which Utopia had been achieved and an unhappy resident of that future sent back evil robot replicas to destroy Bill and Ted and alter the future. In the Afterlife, Bill and Ted had to challenge Death (William Sadler) to return to the land of the living, defeat the evil robots and set things right, time-wise and Utopian future-wise.
Now, 28 years later, comes the sequel to the sequel, BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC, our heroes have failed to write the long-prophesied song to unite the world, which is causing the collapse of time and space. Ted and Bill are losing confidence that they will be able to write that all-important song. The future visits them once again and ratchets up the pressure by telling the duo that they have mere hours to write the song, get it out there and prevent the universe from ripping apart. Can they do it?
Assisting them in their mission are their daughters Thea Preston (Samara Weaving) and Billie Logan (Brigitte Lundy-Paine). They are very like their fathers in some ways, their friendship is similarly close, but unlike the dads, they are musical geniuses. While Bill and Ted are searching through the future for the versions of themselves that wrote the song of the prophecy, Billie and Thea are searching through history looking for the very best musicians to help play that universe-saving song, when the time arrives.
Cue numerous scenes of Bill and Ted meeting various future Bills and Teds and being stunned by the sorts of men they become. Billie and Thea’s journey is a smaller part of the story-telling, but provides a nice counterpoint to the main action and is a neat echo of the first movie. FACE THE MUSIC proposes that music, history and the future of everything is Bill and Ted’s “family business”.
Seeing Bill and Ted back in harness is fun. But it can be a tough sell to persuade some audiences to see the middle-aged versions of youthful iconic characters. There is an attempt to show us how they have evolved as adults, despite the setback of not having written “the song”. Alex Winter’s Bill is substantially like a matured version of the immature original. He is as funny and on point as ever. Keanu Reeves seems to have more difficulty in hitting the sweet spot in his revisit to Ted. On the other hand, Weaving is good as Bill’s daughter Thea and Lundy-Paine is well … excellent, at being a Gen-Z version of her father Ted. Interestingly, neither Weaving nor Lundy-Paine, had seen the two original films, for them the source material was simply not on their radar. The rest of the cast is well-stocked with comic actors such as Jayma Mays, Erinn Hayes, William Sadler, Holland Taylor, Jillian Bell, Kristen Schaal and SNL’s Beck Bennett.
The script for FACE THE MUSIC has been in place for a decade, but it wasn’t until Reeves’ JOHN WICK films took in serious box office, that studios became interested in this sequel. The original film’s creative team, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, have fashioned a couple of popular cultural icons that have been turned into a movie trilogy, a TV series, an animated series and comic books.
Bill and Ted were great three decades ago. Their take on what now seems now like a shiny era of US history was particularly fun. Their 1980s teen talk used elements of valley and surfer speak, but also had its own favourite adjectives “resplendent” and “atypical” and the Martian word “station”. Over the years, audiences enjoyed the pair’s basic goodness and earnest desire to create a better universe while partying on. Your Mileage May Vary on whether you enjoy seeing this latest outing.
Director Dean Parisot has made a movie that I found generally entertaining and continually amusing, rather than gut-busting. Running time: 91 minutes. (6.5/10)