Bill & Ted Face the Music
The Return of the Charming Duo Proves to Be Unimaginative and Unwarranted
While becoming cult classics later, the impact of the Bill & Ted films was not felt until afterwards. They effectively ushered in an era of films where the naïve fools would dominate the comedic box office. Such was the case with the Wayne’s World films as well as Michael Meyer’s other Austin Powers franchise, and even the worldwide hit Dumb & Dumber (1994) owes its existence to the original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure(1989). When Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) disappointed at the box office, however, it seemed to spell the death knell for the characters. But… nearly thirty years later, we have gotten a third entry: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020).
Bill & Ted Face the Music sees our eponymous protagonists Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) down on their luck; their prophetic greatest song, which would help unite the world into living in a utopia, is still elusive, and they are losing the confidence of nearly everyone around them. Only Bill and Ted’s daughters, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Bridgette Lundy-Paine) still believe in them. When the future sees its reality in danger, however, they send yet another emissary to the past to convince Bill and Ted of the crucial necessity of having the song written in the next hours. Thus, Bill and Ted embark on a journey to try and steal the song from their future selves, using the famed phone-booth time machine of previous films. Meanwhile, Thea and Billie, trying to help their fathers, go back in time to recruit the greatest musicians in history for their parent’s band.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure proved to be a refreshing and extremely entertaining parody of time-travelling films, as well as giving us two charmingly naïve characters that surprisingly grew on us. However, due to its great success, the film spawned the Bogus Journey sequel that seemed to be at a trouble of where to bring its characters next. While that film did retread certain aspects, becoming redundant with certain gags, it was still original for having our protagonists’ journey through the afterlife. With Bill & Ted Face the Music it seems as if the creative juices have stopped flowing.
I won’t deny it wasn’t warmly nostalgic to see the two older actors playing their breakthrough roles again. Reeves and Winter play up to expectations and encapsulate the spirit of their earlier characters in a satisfying manner. The additions of Weaving and Lundy-Paine were also welcome, and they were mostly successful at performing imitations of their onscreen parents with a more personalized spin. Producers were also able to get veteran Dean Parisot in the director’s chair, and he’s able to give the film a light and smooth comedic feel, indicating audiences to not take anything too seriously. This helps rediscover some of the carefree feeling that the first film had, which the second film seemed to brush away in favor of world-building. It was also nice to see the time travelling sequences with modern day CGI, as the small budgets of the late 80s and 90s made those scenes in the original films age terribly.
However, the entire narrative is much more disappointing. One of the greatest aspects from the Bill & Ted world was that viewers could imagine their all-powerful song themselves. By giving viewers this explicit and unnecessary aspect of the characters’ journey, filmmakers are choosing to pop this particular bubble. Meanwhile, the plot itself seems too forced; in fact it would be more at home as fan fiction than actual canon. This is surprising given that the script was penned by the same scribes as the first two films: Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. The film seems to want to retread every aspect of the previous two films, from meeting up with Death (William Sadler), to going to the future, kidnapping people from the past, etc. There are attempts at modernizing the franchise, by adding more diversity and giving more character depth to Bill and Ted’s wives, but it really is something that is expected in films today. Bill and Ted’s adventure here was so uninteresting to me that I was rather more intrigued with the subplot of their daughters going through history instead. As for the comedy, there were a few moments of cracking a smile or silent chuckling, but infinitely fewer than the ones from the first two films.
Bill & Ted Face the Music seems to sap all the originality that the first two films had, and instead seems like an incongruous franchise entry that its predecessors were specifically parodying in the first place. Wanting to ride on recycled gags and nostalgia gets the film so far. In the end, the charm of the cinematic world and performers is able to salvage some respectability for the film, but overall a sturdy disappointment. Not cool dude.