The much awaited and presumably final instalment in the Bill & Ted series, Bill & Ted Face the Music, pulls off the impossible feat of being a faithful and charming sequel to cult classics. For that, the production should be very proud of their efforts and patience. However, the movie itself is neither “excellent” or “bogus”. It’s just, sort of, “chill”.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their bodacious roles as the titular aspiring rock stars. The way they’re both able to fall back into the characters is astonishing; almost as if they wrapped 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Jounrney last week. The continuation of this story picks up on the duo’s troubles to create a song that will unite the world. Despite the support of their totally awesome daughters (Action Point’s Brigette Lundy-Paine and Guns Akimbo’s Samara Weaving), everyone is growing tired waiting for the lifesaving prophecy to come true. Including the future’s Great Leader (Holland Taylor), who has given the boys one last day to make their song a reality. The guys have an epiphany: why not travel through the circuits of time to when the song has been created? There, they can hear the song and return to their present to save their future. And like that, they hijack their old time travelling phone booth and make pit stops in hopes to find reliable references.
The Bill & Ted series has always had fun rewriting time travel lore and physics (including brain-busting loopholes), but the shenanigans explored in Face the Music step over a line of continuity that’s hard to trace back through. Because the end of civilization is only a few hours away, time begins folding in on itself. This creates rifts in the earth’s geography, with large scale sites being teleported to other parts of the world, as well as people from history being shifted around timelines. This is too big of a bite for the film to take, which may have been forgivable if it was funny. However, it resorts to a repetitive gag where extras in costume appear in the background and look confused.
The film really likes repetitive gags, which is disappointing considering the jokes that screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon cash in on don’t necessarily withstand multiple takes. The gags involving Bill and Ted meeting versions of themselves through time is an amusing sight at first, but the run-ins lose their lustre as they follow a predictable comedic formula. Even when heavy albeit superb make-up effects are utilized.
Ditto for the duo’s daughters. In an attempt to help their dads, the teens also travel through time to find artists who could contribute to the greatest song ever written and played. There’s a sweet message about the power of creative influences as each famous musician from history gets to play with someone that inspired them to pursue music. But, even these time-traveling misadventures develop a routine structure that becomes less surprising and more predictable.
However, this all builds up towards a finale that could be the series’ greatest climax. As the apocalypse arrives, all of our protagonists decide to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks in the form of one last concert. The use of colour is fetching, the staging creates an epic feel, and the goofball optimism on display is quite infectious. And because Bill & Ted Face the Music practically moves in real time towards the deadline, a terrific sense of urgency is developed extremely well by director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest).
Like other sequels to cult hits like Anchorman and Zoolander, a third Bill & Ted has always been in high demand. Not only is Bill & Ted Face the Music better than those other reunion comedies, but the film truly delivers on fan service. But while that fanbase consideration will be appreciated nonetheless with goofy grins from the audience, the charm sometimes isn’t enough to gloss over the film’s blemishes.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie