The stakes are higher than ever for the time traveling exploits of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Yet to fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way they’ll be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends.
With almost thirty years passed since the second entry in the franchise, with one of its main leads (Alex Winter) previously retired from acting, the other lead (Keanu Reeves) now thought of as more an action hero and a script that has been trying to get put into production for at least ten years, it’s fair to say that the odds against Bill & Ted Face The Music being anything other than a massive train wreck were, for me at least, extremely thin and yet it’s my joy to announce that it’s not that bad at all. In fact I‘ll go further than that, I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. That’s not to say that it’s a classic or anything at all revolutionary, but it was, for me at least, a valuable little time capsule to my youth. With a limited budget, somewhat cheap looking CGI and a running time of ninety one minutes, it feels almost retro but fittingly so, like a warm comfort blanket being wrapped around my now somewhat jaded shoulders.
I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of the original films, I enjoyed both as a teenager, the original movie more than its sequel, but that’s about as far as my nostalgia went for them. In fact, I actually only found myself re-visiting both films last year at the behest of my now teenage son when we got into one of our frequent conversations about the films of my youth. My feelings towards the Bill & Ted films hadn’t really changed upon my re-watch. They were still pretty much tucked into the category that I had previously put them in, part of the VHS rental history of my life. Films that I enjoyed, watched with my buddies and had seen several times back in the day. They aren’t the definitive films to watch about time travelling teenagers, the films of the adventures of Marty McFly take that title. They are however, movies that feature two enjoyably pure and funny characters that worked out just fine at the time and surprisingly, translate over quite aptly as middle-aged fathers, stuck in their supposed quest to write the song that will unite all of humanity (thanks to some quite simple retconning to contradict the end title scene of the second movie, which apparently was added without the knowledge of the writers at the time of its post-production).
The film somehow manages to walk the thin line of banking on nostalgia whilst introducing new characters to the forefront without ever compromising on its mission statement of “Let’s make another Bill & Ted movie.” Hollywood and in particular the heads of a few established and much more popular franchises should take note of this. Both Bill and Ted are cherished and well-loved characters to the vast majority of people who are going to watch this new entry to the series. Thankfully we are given pretty much what we want from their 2020 iterations. Sure, they are having problems facing up to mid-adult life, but neither of them has become broken down by it. In fact, with some slight tweaks to the script and some CGI de-aging of its two familiar stars, this movie could easily be set five years after Bogus Journey. There is no hidden agenda to its storyline. It doesn’t have a political or social message ham-fistedly rammed into its narrative other than its original message of us just trying to all get along. It’s a fun movie with a similar structure to its predecessors. Both Reeves and Winter seem genuinely happy to be there, the term “cash grab” never once coming to mind.
Similarly with the introduction of the new characters, specifically Bill and Ted’s daughters Billie (Bridget Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) is handled superbly to fit in with the vibe of the previous films, with both of them not being embarrassed about their fathers’ previous follies in the years proceeding from the last instalment. In fact, they are in awe of them. They are respectful of their “talents” and have fully embraced their fathers’ enthusiasm for music. Again I must point out that any initial fears I had of these new characters being there to “one-up” or replace the original stars were quickly put to rest. They have a vital role to play in the story but most importantly do not take over the story. I must give kudos to the original creators and returning writers Chris Matherson and Ed Solomon with the balance that they’ve struck with the script.
So if my veiled comparisons to other recent franchises have yet to hit home, this new Bill and Ted film is actually a better structured piece and one that’s more honourable to its origins than the latest Star Wars Trilogy! I could go on comparing and giving my reasons why but that’s a conversation for another time (or another podcast episode). It’s plot is straight forward but there’s a sub-plot involving Bill and Ted’s long suffering Princess wives that seemingly suffered being heavily edited as it doesn’t seem to contribute much to the main story. The ending could even be described as cheesy yet it’s still immensely satisfying. It’s great to see the return of the some of the original cast in the supporting roles too in the form of Bill’s dad (Chief Logan), Amy Stoch as Missy and of course William Sadler once again picking up the scythe as Death. There’s also a suitable nod to the late George Carlin’s character of Rufus. Couple this with the aforementioned Billie and Thea and throw in a time travelling killer robot going through an existential crisis whilst informing everyone that his full name is Dennis Caleb McCoy and I’ve got pretty much everything I wanted from this third Bill & Ted outing.
It doesn’t necessarily require a visit to the cinema given the current situation and it’s availability on VOD platforms in many territories but it is getting a U.K. cinema release but will undoubtedly be available to watch on demand in the U.K. soon. Yes you could say that it’s just a rehash of the old formula but if you’re a fan of the first two films and it’s eminently likeable leads then why not “Be Excellent To Each Other” and give this film a try.
Film ’89 Verdict – 7/10
Bill & Ted Face The Music is on general theatrical release now (regional variances may apply).