For fans of the franchise, Face the Music is one most triumphant swan song.
After one long, strange journey, Bill and Ted complete their trilogy. Through ups and downs, and through the power of a touching off-screen friendship, Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves hit the stage one last time as the airhead rockers from San Dimas. Bill & Ted Face the Music winds up being one of the rare sequels worth the wait: a fun romp for casual viewers and a touching love letter to fans of the franchise.
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
Once told they’d save the universe during a time-traveling adventure, two would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny.
For me, one of the singular charms of Bill and Ted is that they take the same plot – two knuckleheads go on a journey to overcome a hurdle in their personal development – yet always find a new riff to keep the idea clever. They need to graduate; go on a trip to the past. They need to play their first big show; go on a trip through the afterlife. Here, they need to discover what is actually important in life. So they go on a trip through their own futures.
For the Fans.
Director Dean Parisot smartly splits the film into two narratives. In the main plot, Bill and Ted keep jumping into their timeline to try to find the version of themselves that actually united the world. In the side-plot, their daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), basically recreate their fathers’ journeys in order to help them believe in themselves again. You get the best of both worlds.
First, Bill and Ted get to have a new adventure and play to their strengths. A lot of the fun of the series is watching how these nimrods come up with galaxy brain solutions to absurd situations. If you put them in familiar settings, it wouldn’t be interesting. This also allows Keanu and Alex to play to their strengths: they drop into the lovable dopes persona like a comfy pair of old jeans, but also get to try new material as each future Bill and Ted are wildly different characters.
Second, Billie and Thea get to play a Greatest Hits tour of the franchise for the faithful, while showing how they are their father’s daughters, but also their own characters. It’s an efficient way to build them up, and to let Samara and Brigette shine. And shine they do, especially Lundy-Paine who does an amazing riff on the Ted persona. I liked them both immensely as characters.
For the General Audience.
You don’t have to be a card-carrying member of the Wyld Stallyns fan club to enjoy Face the Music. The movie has great pacing, fantastic characters in supporting roles, and tons of silly fun. The film also drops exposition in key places to get everyone up to speed. The whole ethos of being so dumb it’s smart should make sure that even people who don’t like the other movies should find plenty of silliness to laugh at.
There are a few flaws in this final outing. There’s a new antagonist, a killer robot from the future played by Anthony Carrigan, that feels like a major missed opportunity. We’ve seen funny takes on robots in this franchise already, so making another robot raises the stakes, while the character itself falls flat. Maybe some of the better interactions ended up on the cutting room floor, because his schtick never really hits. A few of the time travelers recruited by Billie and Thea also feel under developed.
Some returning characters get the same treatment. William Sadler’s Grim Reaper was a show stealing phenom in Bogus Journey, but here he feels like an afterthought. We get a hologram of George Carlin’s Rufus, but its just a nod, and I wanted a little more to honor the late, great comedian. There are a few great scenes with Bill and Ted’s royal spouses, but I got the feeling that in some script it was more of a running theme.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
At the end of the day, Bill & Ted Face the Music delighted me. I laughed a ton, and even got a little misty at the tender moments. The tenderness everyone involved had for the project – especially the writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson who also wrote the first two films – was deeply evident. The love of the franchise and the camaraderie between Bill and Ted and Alex and Keanu just jump off the screen. If you weren’t a Wyld Stallyns groupie before, Face the Music will make believers out of you.