Bill & Ted Face the Music

When young actors Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves first graced cinema screens as the dim witted metalhead duo of Bill S. Preston Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan in the time traveling yarn Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989 it must have seemed initially like the kind of quirky, one note comedy that had a very limited shelf life. Predicated so much on the cultural landscape of the late 80s slacker culture that it arose from, it’s easy to imagine it would be forgotten by the decades close. And yet that film, alongside its sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey released two years later, would endure as a cult classic thanks to countless replays on cable television for late night audiences consistently charmed by the talented young performers goofy, good-natured humor amid their ridiculous misadventures. It’s understandable why viewers with fond memories of these most excellent time traveling troubadours might approach a long in-development sequel some three decades later with caution, easy as it is to be seen as little more than a misguided, nostalgia-fueled cash-grab. Thankfully, director Dean Parisot’s Bill and Ted Face The Music is a delightful love letter to fans of the first two films that finds our lovable heroes confronting fatherhood, marriage, a mid-life crisis, and the end of existence itself with all the charm and ridiculous humor one would hope for.

When Bill and Ted Face The Music begins we find our two best friends now in their forties, their marriages are in a rut and their rock band “Wyld Stallyns”, once prophesied to perform a song that would unite the world, has yet to be penned by them. Just as our duo begins to doubt their place in the universe they are greeted by time traveler Kelly (Kristin Schall), the daughter of Rufus (memorably played by the great George Carlin in the previous films) who transports them to the future where they are told if they don’t write the song before the end of the day that all reality as they know it will cease to exist. This sets Bill and Ted off on another time traveling odyssey involving interactions with their future selves as they attempt to obtain the song, only to find themselves in comically worse situations with each visit. Meanwhile, their twenty-something daughters Thea and Billie (perfectly played by Samara Weaving and Bridgette-Lundy Paine in a pair of show stealing performances), are recruited by Kelly to travel through time to recruit history’s greatest musicians (including Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Mozart, Ling Lun, a cavewoman drummer, and Kid Cudi as himself) in an effort to help their dads perform the song that will unite the world and save all existence. Along the way they must contend with a time traveling killer robot and an unexpected detour to hell where they confront their old friend The Grim Reaper (the wonderful William Sadler reprising his iconic role from Bogus Journey.)

If you’re not a fan of Bill and Ted by this point, it’s not much of a surprise to say that Face The Music is unlikely to convert you into a believer. This is, first and foremost, a hilariously loving celebration of the Bill and Ted series, one that pays tribute to the first two films while also paving the way for a new generation to take the reigns and carry the comedy into the future. In the role that helped launch his career Keanu Reeves once again showcases his outstanding comedic talents, despite being more famous today for his serious performances in action films like The Matrix and John Wick series. Similarly, it’s great to see Alex Winter, whose career would never reach the heights of his co-star, showing such talent and charisma in the role of Bill. Their comedic chemistry is every bit as strong as in the previous films and old fans will have a blast seeing them back in action. However, the real stars of Bill and Ted Face The Music are Samara Weaving and Bridgette-Lundy Paine, who are so funny and adorably goofy as our heroes daughters following in their fathers footsteps I look forward to the inevitable sequel that focuses exclusively around them. Director Dean Parisot, most well known for giving us one of modern cinemas most enduring sci-fi comedy’s in the form of 1999’s brilliant Star Trek-inspired parody Galaxy Quest, handles the similarly meta humor of Bill and Ted with a light and breezy touch that’s most welcome in today’s landscape of modern blockbusters where even most superhero spectacles are bogged down in some way by self-seriousness. The supporting cast, from the aforementioned Schall to Sandler’s Grim Reaper as well as Jayma Mays and Erin Hayes as Bill and Ted’s respective wives, are similarly entertaining. A scene early on involving a couple therapy session attended by the foursome at the behest of a counselor played by Jillian Bell wrings forth humor in a more grounded manner than the more ridiculous scenes throughout.

If I have only one criticism of Bill and Ted Face The Music it would be that the ending arrives a bit abruptly, though I suppose the filmmakers can’t be faulted too much for leaving audiences wanting more. Regardless, Bill and Ted Face The Music is a major highlight of what has been a mostly bogus summer movie season that left me with a stupid, satisfied grin on my face from beginning to end. Excellent!