'Bill & Ted' Manage to Age Gracefully, Even If It's Tough to 'Face the Music' Directed by Dean Parisot
Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving
Published Aug 28, 2020Why is there a new Bill & Ted movie in 2020? Well, why is anything happening this year? There's no good answer, but the long-awaited return of these nearly forgotten late '80s hesher-lite heroes provides, at the very least, a brief moment of comfort in these dizzyingly troubled times.
If you're a Gen X-er or middle-aged millennial, you may very faintly remember the non-stoner goofballs who helmed two wildly successful movies (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in 1989 and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey in 1991) along with plenty of spinoffs before the franchise lay dormant for decades.
In the same way that the premise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks awful on paper, it's hard to do them justice — but, ultimately, the Bill & Ted model is a bizarrely earnest mix of pseudo-educational time travel featuring terrible impressions of historical figures, Pauly Shore-esque California drawl and delightful hard rock guitarmonies on the regular. There is plenty of philosophy sewn throughout their universe, and the joke of two goofy suburban rockers occasionally delivering verbose wisdom is constantly revisited but never gets old.
We can thank the Keanu-ssaince for the existence of Bill & Ted Face the Music, because the renewed interest in the actor has made it possible for this film to exist. One of the great things about Keanu Reeves, movie star, is that he's so stoic and laid-back that, no matter what he's doing, he doesn't run the risk of becoming cloyingly self-aware.
In fact, Keanu runs the risk of becoming too deadened in Bill & Ted Face the Music, acting too graceful of a foil to Alex Winter's Bill. But that makes their dynamic faithful to the original, and that's true of the film writ large. Despite casting up-and-comers Samara Weaving and Brigitte Lundy-Paine as Bill and Ted's children (named Billie and Thea, respectively), the film doesn't fall into the overt pandering traps that have ruined so many other reboots.
The premise, as if it even matters: Bill and Ted have been tasked with writing a song that unites the whole world. Because they haven't done it yet, the space-time continuum is collapsing in on itself. To try and figure out the song, Bill and Ted visit future versions of themselves while various other hijinks ensue.
Lest you think it's too much of a meta update, however, it's worth noting that Face the Music is really just another journey through history, as all of the characters hit up the phone booth (controlled by Kristen Schaal, playing Rufus's daughter following George Carlin's death) and visit some poorly rendered historical figures (a terrible Jimi Hendrix impersonator is particularly egregious). Kid Cudi is also along for the ride, though he's barely utilized.
Despite a soundtrack that includes Lamb of God, Mastodon and Weezer, Face the Music concludes with a worldwide jam session that is nearly painfully goofy, complete with trumpets and sequencers and Lumineers-esque shouts. It's the kind of mortifying earnestness that plagues so many music movies, but the weird thing here is that it works.
The original Bill & Ted movies were certainly products of their time, as evidenced with cringeworthy content like repeated uses of the homophobic F-slur. But those poorly aged decisions don't reflect the real dynamic duo, who are decidedly more innocent and inoffensive than other blonde-brunette duos like Garth and Wayne or Beavis and Butthead. The fact that Bill & Ted Face the Music feels like corny edutainment about togetherness means it's being true to itself. So even if there are some embarrassment chills mixed in with the laughs, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a fitting finale in this truly timeless series.