In a world that is the least excellent, the glimmer of light is Bill & Ted Face The Music. After twenty-plus years, Bill & Ted are the same loveable goofballs everyone loves, without overstaying their welcome. Remarkably, it’s the funniest of the three and even makes you think about what friendship, destiny, and the music that inspires. Or in Bill & Ted’s words, “Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes.”
Now into their middle age, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are rocking dads to daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine). They are also married to the princesses Joana (Jayma Mays) and Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes), but the marriages have become rocky. The source of the marital woes is that Bill & Ted don’t understand the need to love as individuals, often speaking as a pair of people. Bill & Ted have been together so long, and they don’t know what to do without each other. They share feelings because that’s all they know how to do. That, and rock on.
The problem is that their endless rocking on hasn’t united the universe. After the Grand Canyon show and the years of fame it brought, they’re now playing open mics, banging their heads against the wall trying to write that one song. Without giving too much away, Bill and Ted Face the Music centers on dealing with what it means to feel like you never lived up to who you wanted to be.
Bill & Ted have run out of time to do what Rufus told them they had to in the first film, and George Carlin gets a beautiful tribute here and given a part to play via his daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal). After a hilarious but also sorrowful therapy session with Jillian Bell as the counselor, the doofuses are slung to the future by Kelly, where they talk to The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), who tells the two that they have to write the song in less than two hours (no doubt a joke about the runtime) or the universe will cease to exist. The fabric of time is already tearing when we begin the film, as historical figures (and some more recent ones) appear in the present day.
With that knowledge, Bill & Ted decide to steal their songs from themselves in a future where they’ve already written it. This leads to some great character acting where the duo meets themselves in several of their possible futures. In the process, we get some great quotes like “You’re a dick, Ted!” and insight into what happens if they fail. At the same time, Billy & Thea are squarely placed as younger versions of Bill & Ted (hence the names), trying to save the world with the best band history has ever seen which includes Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, and Kid Cudi (c’mon, no Bob Dylan?) playing himself. In the process, Bill & Ted end up meeting Death (William Sadler) and a robot named Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan).
Carrying over from the previous films is fantastic music. 10K Projects pulls together bands like Big Black Delta, Alec Wigdahl, Weezer, Cold War Kids, Mastodon, POORSTACY, Lamb of God, FIDLAR, Culture Wars, Blame My Youth, Animals As Leaders, Christian Scott aTunede Adjuah, and of course, the Wyld Stallyns themselves. These artists give the sound of pretty much every genre but mainly stays in the rock or heavy metal genre.
The script for Bill & Ted Face the Music is set at a breakneck speed and is funny beyond belief. Alex Winter slides right back into the persona a little easier than Keanu Reeves does, but Keanu gets the best lines. The film has no critique of what the world is like today, instead opting to choose that being a friend to each other and creating things for others to enjoy will unite the universe, something the actors themselves might believe. Winter and Reeves exude love and understanding through these roles. This is why Bill & Ted came back.
The film has a few too many subplots. There’s the “broken marriage” subplot, there’s the subplot of Bill & Ted being fathers, there’s a subplot about the future, and none of them are given the time to flesh themselves out. Sure, we have seen many assorted variations on the “broken marriage” trope, middle-aged men being fathers, and the future being more civilized than the present. Still, it would have been nice to see why these subplots came to a head and get a resolution that made sense. Sure, the film is mainly about Bill, Ted, Billy, and Thea, but the side characters are essential to the story as much as the main characters are.
In the end, Bill & Ted Face the Music is an enjoyable comedy that doesn’t overstay its welcome, gives you a great soundtrack to listen to once the credits roll, and leaves with a sense of being a great time.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is now available on-demand and in theaters.