August, 2020. Our world is at a standstill. Things are as bad as they’ve been in decades. Injustice is rampant in our streets and hate spews out of every corner of the world. Not to mention the deadly virus that has shaken the planet in ways not seen in previous lifetimes. Although life is hard right now, in come Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) to save the day by spreading positivity and excellence to the world — well, their fictional movie world, at least.
In the near 30 years since we last saw the Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted have failed to live up to the promise that they would one day create a song to unite the world and bring peace to all. The guys are now unemployed and still revel in the past, much to the dismay of their “princess” wives, humorously recast again with Jayma Mays (Glee) and Erinn Hayes (Children’s Hospital) stepping in to the roles. Bill and Ted are now only looked up to by their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine, Bombshell) and Thea (Samara Weaving, Ready or Not) — a bright piece of humor — who live as near replicas of their fathers. When Kristen Schaal’s Kelly, filling the void of the late George Carlin who gets a brief but welcome homage, comes to them from the future with warnings that the world will end in 77 minutes unless the duo can find it in them to create a song to unite the world, the Wyld Stallyns set off on an adventure most excellent, and less bogus, to fulfill their destiny.
Returning stars Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves surely haven’t lost a step as the lovable doofuses audiences fell in love with back in 1989. It’s a joy to see Reeves fully commit and embrace the silliness of this world after his major success with the kickass “John Wick” franchise. Alex Winter is slightly more impressive here, given his lack of acting credits in recent decades — he has since turned his attention primarily to directing. Through all the zany make-up and elaborate set pieces, both men are clearly having a blast and that certainly comes through on the screen.
The new additions to the cast are most welcoming with Samara Weaving — further proving how much of a star in the making she is — and Brigette Lundy-Paine nearly stealing the film from out under its titular heroes. The daughters get plenty of mischief to revel in with their b-plotline working as a reboot-of-sorts with the ladies finding the old phone booth time machine to help their fathers unite the world. Their plan consists of travelling throughout time to bring together many classic music figures including Jimi Hendrix, Mozart, Louis Armstrong and… Kid Cudi — who strangely knows a lot about quantum physics. Not to mention the glorious return of Death (William Sadler); and yes, he is just as glorious as ever. Anthony Carrigan (HBO’s Barry) also steals a number of scenes as a killer robot named Dennis Caleb McCoy who’s not particularly good at his job.
Director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) along with returning writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon craft a fun, breezy romp that manages to sidestep the usual faults that come with a long-awaited follow-up. There’s never a need to stop the film in its tracks for the audience to point and go “hey, remember that?!”. Nostalgia is certainly found here, but it’s rarely ever relied upon as a crutch. Most all returning characters serve some sort of purpose in the story and aren’t paraded around like the needless cameos they initially threaten to be. This is a natural continuation of these characters that thankfully brings a consistent level of laughs.
While the plot isn’t anything particularly game-changing given the previous two outings, Bill & Ted Face the Music maintains the same cartoonish vibe and sweet, earnest characters you’ve come to expect. This is as open-hearted and good natured as most films can get. There’s truly not an ounce of cynicism in the whole film. The meta humor is also used quite cleverly and threads the fine line of being ever-present, but not overbearing.
Fans of Bill & Ted will likely be more forgiving of the same wishy-washy time travel logic seen in the previous films, but here, it feels more slapdash and loosely constructed. The ending might catch viewers off guard by how abrupt it is, however the amusing post-credit scene slightly makes up for it. And sure, the film doesn’t ever go deep into how Bill and Ted feel that they failed to live up to their expectations, but the pace is so brisk, you never feel the need for the film to stop moving.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is thankfully just as good as it needs to be. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter haven’t aged a day when it comes to their on-screen chemistry and the surrounding cast, returning and new, fit right in. Films like Dumb & Dumber and Zoolander may have stumbled with their long awaited sequels, but the Wyld Stallyns prove their return has a purpose. This is 90 minutes of delightful, breezy entertainment that may not be substantial, but in this current climate, it’s nothing more than excellent.