VOD film review: Bill & Ted Face the Music
Facing the music10
Mark Harrison | On 30, Jan 2021
Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler
For fans of Bill S Preston and Theodore “Ted” Logan, the bar set by their Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey is high enough that the long-awaited threequel Bill & Ted Face the Music could only be the third-best movie in the trilogy. Even with that in mind, this funny, utterly uncynical encore is better than we ever could have hoped.
Picking up three decades after Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) “got good” at the end of Bogus Journey, the duo have yet to inspire world peace with their music, but it’s not for lack of trying. Already frustrated with their lack of progress, the Wyld Stallyns receive a more urgent appeal from Rufus’ daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal), who travels back to let them know that there’ll be hell to pay unless they come up with the goods in the next 77 minutes.
Asking not for whom the bell tolls, they launch themselves headlong into the kind of gambit that’s worked out for them in the past – travelling into an already unstable future and stealing the track from their older selves. While their attempt at a shortcut only puts reality in greater jeopardy, their grown-up daughters Wilhemina “Billie” Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theadora “Thea” Preston (Samara Weaving) follow a different path to help their dads avoid disaster.
The pressure’s not only on Bill and Ted the characters, but on the film itself. After about a decade in development and almost 30 years since the last instalment, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have had a long time to think on how to end this trilogy and, happily, their script covers all bases. The jokes are as funny as ever, the time travel is even dafter than before, and somehow they pull together the best possible solution to the impossible problem they’ve set up.
Given the brief of uniting the world, our easygoing heroes are understandably disappointed with how their lives have turned out. Unlike so many of the legacyquels that are in vogue right now, this toys with the dangers of living in the past, especially when that past is a future that has not yet come to pass. Unfulfilled potential looms over this without ever becoming a drag, as the real-time story and Dean Parisot’s sure direction keep things bouncy and entertaining.
In his first on-screen role since Freaked in 1993, Winter slips back into playing Bill more naturally that Reeves does for Ted, but for the latter, there’s still palpable relief at goofing off as well as a more honed comic timing that he had in the first two movies. Among other returning stars, William Sadler reprises his turn as the Grim Reaper (once an old buddy and now hilariously precious about his glory days as a show-stealing bassist) and it’s a delight to see Hal Landon Jr back as Ted’s dad.
As for new arrivals, Kristen Schaal steps in for the late, great George Carlin quite nicely, and Anthony Carrigan gives a standout performance as the film’s Terminator parody, but Lundy-Paine and Weaving are the real revelations. They could so easily have been one-joke characters, but their performances ensure that good apples Billie and Thea go a long way without ever straying too far from the tree.
It’s through their characters that the film takes a victory lap of the excellent adventures and bogus journeys of the past, not necessarily palming a legacy off to new characters but rather exploring the most literal and joyous interpretation of what the films have been telling us they’re about all along. It grapples with the hows and why-fors of a band that could unite the world, taking detours to meet famous musical figures along the way, but always circles back to the lovable main duo.
Bringing gorgeous, unabashed optimism to our screens, Bill & Ted Face the Music will be a tonic for fans. Where Excellent Adventure was a film about exploring the past, and Bogus Journey was about living in the present, this fresh and funny threequel reminds us that the future, however uncertain it may be, might not be so bad as long as we’re excellent to each other.