Take Excellent Adventure, tie in Bogus Journey, shove them through time as well as a modern lens, and you’ve got Dean Parisot’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, the very funny, very moving, very fitting third film in the saga. It is most triumphant, with only a sprinkle of heinous.
The first two Bill & Ted films, released in 1989 and 1991 respectively, introduced Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves), two teenagers from San Dimas, California who are destined to save the world with their music. It’s a heavy burden, one the duo have lived with for decades since the last movie. And while their band, Wyld Stallyns, did become famous, it was fleeting—and at the start of Face the Music, the world is much the same. The main difference now is Bill and Ted are older and have young adult daughters, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine).
With the introduction of their daughters, and reintroduction of their wives (Princesses Elizabeth and Joanna, played by Erin Hayes and Jayma Mays), Bill & Ted Face the Music has a lot going on. All of which is exacerbated when a woman from the future, Kristen Schaal’s Kelly, tells Bill and Ted if they don’t write a song to change the world in the next hour or so, the world will end.
That deadline, which unfolds mostly in real time, ups the tension considerably. Bill and Ted go off on one journey, while their daughters and wives each go off on their own. Thea and Billie basically repeat Excellent Adventure as they travel through time trying to help their dads. Elizabeth and Joanna, whose story gets unfortunately short-changed a bit, go on a time-traveling journey of self-realization (both were experiencing marriage troubles), and Bill and Ted themselves go ahead in time trying to beat the system. If the universe exists, they must’ve written the song already, so why not just steal it from themselves?
Franchise creators and writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have been working on this script for years and it shows. The movie effortlessly bounces between, mostly, Thea and Billie’s story as well as Bill and Ted’s story, showing how different generations can work to solve the same problem. Both stories are chock full of wild surprises and huge laughs, many of which derive from a killer robot played by Barry’s Anthony Carrigan, who more than just steals the movie, he hijacks it.
“Did he just say ‘killer robot?’” you’re asking. Yes. Yes, I did. There’s more going on in the Face the Music too, lots more, and at times all the narrative threads can become a little perplexing. Director Dean Parisot does a solid job keeping the audience oriented while bouncing between stories, plus dialogue is peppered throughout to cover some of the plot holes and devices—though at least upon first viewing, there’s a good chance the movie will leave you a little bit confused. Laughing and happy, but confused.
Thankfully, the charm of everyone involved, including several characters and actors I’d rather not mention to keep the surprise, mostly covers all that. Winter and Reeves effortlessly slip back into their roles while also giving them a brand new feel. Obviously, this is Bill and Ted, but the years have smoothed their edges a bit and made them much more sympathetic and relatable while maintaining their trademark optimism and humor. As Thea and Billie, Weaving and Lundy-Paine somehow perfectly capture the vibrant nature and undeniable chemistry of their on-screen fathers, while also making their characters believably smart and talented. That was always an issue with Bill and Ted—those guys felt a little too helpless to reach their destiny. But, in their daughters, the promise is there.
All the returning characters, such as William Sadler’s Death, Amy Stoch’s Missy, and Hal Landon Jr. as Ted’s father, are given crucial, delightful roles, and new additions like the aforementioned Schaal, Jillian Bell, and, most of all, Carrigan, keep the movie feeling fresh and new.
That’s the balance that, in the end, makes Face the Music so charming. It’s absolutely, without a doubt, an irreverent Bill & Ted movie. The laughs are huge and consistent. But it slowly evolves to become not just a heartwarming film, but a film for 2020. A film about uniting everyone, past, present, and future, in peace, harmony, and rock and roll.
Bill and Ted’s story was always about destiny. And while Bogus Journey could have been the end of their tale, Face the Music easily justifies itself as the new, definitive conclusion. This movie, flaws and all, feels like the ultimate realization of not just the franchise, but Bill and Ted’s story too. Face the Music isn’t going to unite the world, but it damn sure tries its best.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.