I’m not sure who else apart from hardcore 80s/90s comedy and sci-fi aficionados asked for a follow-up to the Bill & Ted duo of films. While it has stood the test of time in some sense due to its premise, aesthetics, and chemistry between its leads Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves, I hardly doubt many Asians clamoured for a 2020 sequel that pits older versions of the duo going for one final time-travelling hurrah.
I was also afraid that the third film was going to be a gritty and dark reinterpretation of the “late 80s California young dudes who are smarter than they let on do time-travelling” storyline and would lose that entire vibe.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case, as Bill & Ted Face The Music is really the true sequel to the Bill & Ted tag team films.
Be Excellent To Each Other…
The premise is what you expect from a sequel of this magnitude and tone. Bill & Ted (played by Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves respectively) now grown-up and had their brush with rock fame, are still on their quest to crank out a hit song that “unites the world”. With their marriage to the first film’s princesses on the rocks (in a hilarious marriage counselling scene) and the world somehow having its historical and pop icon figures phasing in and out of time due to the hero’s past time-travelling shenanigans, they really need to get that world-uniting song to sort this all out.
While Bill & Ted try out their idea of going forward in time assuming they’ve written the song in the future, their respective daughters Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving) are helping them out by doing some time-travelling on their own. If you’ve watched a number of 80s and 90s sci-fi comedies & shows, you know darn well where half this plot is heading, especially how the music conundrum is solved.
Still, it’s the journey that matters, not so much the destination. Without saying more than the previous paragraph, the film’s runtime is not wasted and is filled with lots of entertaining interactions and funny moments. The highlights include the band Billie and Thea are recruiting as well as Bill and Ted meeting themselves in the time-travelling sequences. William Sadler returns as Death once again to ham it up The Seventh Seal style, and is always a hoot to watch.
Other notable inclusions include Kristen Schaal as Kelly, the daughter of future envoy Rufus from the previous films, and Hal London Jr. who returns as Ted’s dad Chief Logan. There are a few others, but I’ll be doing you a favour and not reveal them as it’s better to experience them for yourselves.
All the backbone and foundation here wouldn’t work were it not for Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves channelling their late 80s personas in dad form, and suffice to say, they did it most excellently and most righteous. You will pay attention to how the duo work their way out of this misadventure, time-travelling and lesson-learning and all.
While hard to follow up, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving do a great job being the duo’s daughters. At the same time, they portray the “kinda-dumb-on-the-outside, but-not-quite-on-the-inside” buddy formula with the plot. The best kind of “dumb” comedies require some semblance of smart setups and good writing to land its punchlines and arcs. This third Bill & Ted film sticks most of its jokes and story landings thanks to its original writer coming on board to wrap up the show -Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson- as well as Galaxy Quest director Dean Parisot pulling it off.
…And Rock On
As good the comedy is here, it only works if you watched the original two films. Bill & Ted Face The Music is unabashedly a made-for-fans movie: made for those who watched and quoted every bit of the past films (cartoon series including). As such, those expecting the film to recap the events in short-but-sweet fashion may not find much to grasp on here. As funny as it is to see Death in this film, context from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is required to find that scene side-splittingly hilarious.
Still, that doesn’t discount the fact that Bill & Ted Face The Music is a sequel made with love and still delivers the laughs. It’s earnest, optimistic, charming, and shows hope that you don’t need too much slapstick to get your audiences’ attention. Good comedic timing, buddy duo chemistry, and elaborate yet easy-to-follow plotlines segmented with ease and great pacing is all you need to cap off your long-standing series. As long as you’re not expecting way more than that, you’re fine rocking on to this excellent follow-up.