‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Review — A Most Excellent Return

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Ever since their triumphant concert at the conclusion of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, fans have been clamoring for more of the duo from San Dimas. Years of speculation and false starts are now firmly in the rearview mirror as the Wyld Stallyns make their triumphant return in Bill & Ted Face the Music, the highly anticipated sequel from Galaxy Quest director Dean Parisot and scripted by Bill & Ted creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Bill & Ted Face the Music proves itself worth the long wait as a thoughtful, thoroughly funny sequel that fits in perfectly with its most excellent predecessors.

In the years since their Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) have struggled to make good on the promise of composing the song that will unite all of humanity. Though they continue to try and create their masterwork, they face struggles with their wives Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays) and attend couples therapy – together as a couple of couples. Despite their problems, Bill and Ted have proven themselves to be caring fathers to their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine). The inability of Bill and Ted to pen their world-changing song brings the universe to the brink and Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of George Carlin’s Rufus, comes from the future to San Dimas in order to get the duo to fulfil their destiny.

Bill & Ted Face the Music plays out like a madcap mash-up of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey while avoiding all the pitfalls of simple fan service. The two plan to get the great song from their future selves, using the old phone booth to jump forward in time. This leads to some unfortunate encounters with their unfortunate future selves. Meanwhile, Thea and Billie use Kelly’s time-traveling device to recruit famous musicians from the past to help their fathers. The multi-generational adventures face their own set of complications, most notably from the murderous robot Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan), who has been dispatched to kill Bill and Ted by The Grand Leader (Holland Taylor), Kelly’s mom and an unbeliever in the divinity of Wyld Stallyn’s music.

The long-anticipated sequel moves briskly along, and Parisot deftly balances the various storylines and timelines. The characters of Bill and Ted haven’t evolved much since we last saw them. They’re basically the same lovable doofuses. It speaks a lot to the enduring power of these characters that they can return basically unchanged after nearly 30 years and still deliver plenty of laughs.

This latest journey takes the characters into some dark places, such as tragic versions of their future selves and even a detour back into the pits of Hell where they’re reunited with Death (William Sadler), also the former bassist of Wyld Stallyns. The return of Death highlights just how tricky it is to pull off a sequel like Face the Music, giving fans an appropriate number of callbacks to the past but not letting the past become the dominant focus. As we all do when get older, Bill and Ted have to look at their own failures, and it’s through that element of introspection that they discover that shortcuts aren’t going to solve their problems. It culminates into an emotionally earnest story of passing the torch to a younger generation, of parents finding their purpose in their children. What is so remarkable about the way this unfolds is that Face the Music is consistently funny and thoughtful without sacrificing any of the insanity we’d expect from a Bill and Ted adventure.

Times are tough right now. There’s a raging pandemic, economic collapse, civil unrest, and bitterly divided body politic. It all feels so bleak. That’s why Bill & Ted Face the Music is such a welcome sight. The film is incredibly optimistic. It’s a film that believes we are at our best when we work together, and working together means we can do incredible things. As shown in the film, it’s so much more than just saying “Be excellent to each other.” Kindness and collaboration requires action, and Bill & Ted Face the Music illustrates that its possible to work together towards that most-excellent future.

Bill & Ted Face the Music
  • Overall Score
4

Summary

A thoughtful, funny, and optimistic sequel, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a triumphant return of the slacker icons in a new adventure that deftly blends the past and future without relying on simple nostalgia and fan service.

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