‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Movie Review: Keanu Reeves’ Most Triumphant Legacy Sequel
Bill & Ted Face the Music is one of the most anticipated sequels ever. Long before it was a real possibility, people would ask Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter if they would ever do a third movie. About 10 years ago they legitimately started the ball rolling. How it took 10 years to make a movie everybody wanted and all the creatives were amenable to is another story. But, it’s finally here.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is necessarily different for being made in 2019/2020. The predecessors were made in 1989 and 1991. It is a satisfying reunion with Reeves and Winter and a feel good movie like the other two. Bill and Ted make viewers feel happy and welcome again by their old friends.
‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ decades after their ‘Bogus Journey’
Bill & Ted Face the Music begins with a recap, lest anybody forget what happened on their Excellent Adventure or Bogus Journey. More realistically, a lot of people weren’t born when those two movies came out. The third film also has to adress the ending of Bogus Journey. It sort of recons the montage of magazine covers that presumably documented Wyld Stallyns’ success that movie claimed when it thought it was the end.
Face the Music introduces new problems with the space time continuum. Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) are now middle aged hasbeens after a brief flare up in popularity in 1991. Their daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) totally believe in their dads. But, an impending temporal event requires that they hurry up and write that song that will unite the universe.
The beginning of the film really captures the sadness of middle age clinging to youth, which is what this movie is in a meta way. We all want another Bill & Ted but isn’t it sad to see these teenage characters as middle aged men? It begins there. Fortunately, Bill and Ted get caught up in another wild time travel adventure that distracts them from their dire circumstances.
‘Bill & Ted’ ain’t what they used to be
Bill and Ted get the idea to visit the future when they’ve already written the song. They hope to take it from their future selves. This is inherent to the ideas in the original two movies. They always met their future selves, even if they turn out to be evil robots.
However, the further and further into the future they go, the worse they make things. Meanwhile, Billie and Thea go on their own time traveling adventure. The princesses, Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays) have a time quest too.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is made like a 2020 movie. It can look jarring when the last sequel was in 1991. The future and Hell now look like green screen backgrounds instead of sets and miniatures. To be fair, Marvel movies are all green screen too. This is probably going to be what a lot of pandemic movies and shows are going to look like, with just the leads in a room (two sets of leads in this case), and no more crowds of extras. Bill & Ted Face the Music just got a head start.
Also why go bigger with Bill & Ted? This was a scrappy little franchise. In the ‘80s and ‘90s that still meant shot on film and real sets. Now, it means you can go smaller and weirder. Fortunately, Face the Music has ideas that are bigger than the budget. Bill and Ted argue with themselves in fun ways and deal with learning about more and more failures every year. It’s cute how they embrace how convoluted their time travel is.
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter overtake some of the other ideas
Bill & Ted Face the Music does a good job balancing all the threads it sets in motion. The daughters’ trip through time parallels Bill and Ted’s future trip. The princesses end up as a background subplot, which is effectively mysterious. But, it may leave some wanting to go along on their adventure too. The subplots ultimately merge in a clever, heartwarming way.
The historical anomalies don’t interact with the modern world as much as the historical figures did in the mall in Excellent Adventure. There are tons of ideas in Bill & Ted Face the Music, but at a certain point you have to stay with Bill and Ted.
There is something charming about Winter and Reeves trying to play these innocent dudes at 40-50, reverting to the lingo and animated gestures. They’re not the young up and comers they were in 1989 and 1991. Neither are Bill & Ted, so they have to answer for that. Reeves and Winter seem to have the most fun playing their future selves in different stages of bitterness. Present Bill and Ted are endearing as ever when they are so hurt and disappointed by their future selves.
They don’t overdo the air guitar either. In fact, they underdo it a little, but when they do it, it’s meaningful. In fact, it seems writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were sensitive to overdoing the fan service. They picked and chose effectively, but if anything were a tad conservative. It’s great to see Bill & Ted again, and they use this opportunity to introduce new, endearing characters into the franchise.
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