The “Bill & Ted” movies are cult favorites, and I think it’s safe to say that without the support of fans, “Bill & Ted Face the Music”—the third movie in the series and the first one since 1991’s “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”—might not have received the funding it needed to happen. Thirty years is a long time, but despite that, “Face the Music” contains the same upbeat spirit as its predecessors, as well as serving as a sweet story of friendship.
“Face the Music” is directed by Dean Parisot and written by series creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their roles as Bill Preston and Ted Logan, who, when we last saw them as young men, were prophesied to write a song that would unite the world. Now, Bill and Ted are approaching middle age, and are essentially has-beens. They still have not written that song, their wives (Elizabeth and Joanna, played by Erinn Hays and Jayma Mays) feel neglected by them, and their daughters Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving) seem to be following in their footsteps. Bill and Ted are brought to the future by Rufus’ daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal), where the Great Leader (Holland Taylor) informs them that they have until 7:17 PM that evening to write that song—not only is it needed to unite the world, but it is also necessary to prevent reality from collapsing.
The story then splits into two narratives before uniting them for the finale. Bill and Ted decide to travel to the future and steal the song from their future selves, while Billie and Thea, wanting to help but not knowing the full extent of the matter, travel back in time to assemble a band made of some of history’s greatest musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, and Ling Lun. Weaving and Lundy-Paine are worthy successors to Reeves and Winter, even if they aren’t given as much time in this film to show off their interpretations of their characters. The collecting historical figures throughout time narrative feels like a throwback to “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” while the rest of the story resembles the wackiness of “Bogus Journey,” even if it doesn’t embrace the weirdness quite as wholeheartedly. It’s interesting to watch Reeves and Winter here, playing characters who have physically aged, but mentally are still the same. It could have come off as regressive, but for the most part it feels comforting, and while Bill and Ted are largely optimistic no matter what hurdles they are facing, there is a tingle of melancholy under a couple of the scenes, such as when they meet their elderly selves, or when they reconcile with Death (played once again by William Sadler).
“Face the Music” doesn’t feel exactly the same as its predecessors, although it comes incredibly close; the visual effects are much glossier, and toward the end of the film it feels like the story is being stretched too thin, before its very abrupt ending. As mentioned before, it doesn’t feel like the premise is pushed to the fullest either; as reality collapses, figures from the past randomly start popping up in the future, but they serve as little more than background decoration. But fans of the original will be pleased to see the band getting back together, as well as the references to the previous films. It’s great to see Sadler again, even if he is underused, and Hal Landon, Jr. reprises his role as Ted’s strict police captain father, while Amy Stoch is back as Ted and Bill’s former stepmother, now married to Ted’s younger brother Deacon (Beck Bennett). George Carlin’s Rufus appears in archival footage, and Schaal’s character Kelly is named after Carlin’s real-life daughter, who has a cameo in the film. The newcomers to the cast fit in well too and help sustain the franchise’s innocent sense of humor, such as Anthony Carrigan, who plays an awkward robot named Dennis sent to kill Bill and Ted.
“Face the Music” lacks any real villains, but it doing so it continues the series’ tradition of serving as a beacon of positivity. All the characters are trying to do is use music to spread joy and peace. Is it sappy? Sure, but it’s a fitting way to bring Bill and Ted’s story to a conclusion that celebrates their love for each other, and especially in 2020, it’s a nice way to imagine how the world could be.
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is now available to rent or buy on all digital platforms. Runtime: 91 minutes. Rated PG-13.