In 1989, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon brought two endearing but dim-witted teen rockers to the big screen in the soon-to-be cult classic Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures. The Wyld Stallyns returned in the 1991 hit sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, but there were no immediate plans for a third instalment in the franchise. With a first script drafted back in April 2011, the big question loomed over production – can the team recapture the most excellent magic of the first two movies?
Directed by Dean Parisot, Bill and Ted Face The Music centres on middle aged fathers Bill S. Preston Esq (Alex Winter) and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan (Keanu Reeves) as they struggle with their musical careers. Once prophesied to craft the greatest song ever written, the Wyld Stallyns have resulted to performing at wedding receptions and cheep taco nights. Whilst grappling with troubled marriages and parental responsibilities, the two rockers are visited by Kelly (Kristen Schaal) with an important message. The two must come up with their fabled song to save the fabric of time and space as we know it.
What unravels is a quirky comedy with a fun musical premise, featuring very similar story beats to the first two films. The third instalment heavily relies on nostalgia and returning familiar faces, resulting in a crowd pleasing outing which long term fans can share with their children. The central duo once again time travel to find alternate versions of themselves, collect various historical figures and team up with the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) along the way. For some this might feel like putting on a warm, cosy blanket, but for others it may frustrate, feeling like a missed opportunity to refresh the franchise.
Still it’s hard not to fall for the wacky adventures and the lead’s awkward charms, especially with a number of silly but wonderfully fun set pieces as they attempt to pin down their future selves. Bickering with their aged counterparts who have adopted ridiculous English accents and outlandish costumes (Keanu with a dad bod!) is probably one of the highlights, along with their prison duplicates. Concurrently, their kids Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), go on their own excellent adventure, as they attempt to round up the best musicians throughout history to help their dads. Queue equally silly montages as they persuade greats such as Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft), Mozart (Daniel Dorr) to join the band. Closing out with a sweet natured realisation in the final act, the charming theme of family proves the real heart of the film in an uplifting finale.
It’s wonderful to see Winters and Reeves teaming up again, and the two instantly slip into their musical misfit counterparts with ease, using familiar mannerisms (Ted’s expressive arms) and quirky vocabulary. Weaving and Lundy-Paine admirably capture their on-screen father’s quirks and the reunion with co-star William Sadler definitely brings a smile. The bittersweet tribute to cosmic time-traveller Rufus (the late George Carlin) was most heartfelt, but it’s Anthony Carrigan’s robot Dennis Caleb McCoy who steals most of the scenes, as the brilliantly terrible assassin.
I also very much enjoyed the most triumphant soundtrack, particularly the hilarious rendition of “That Which Binds Us Through Time – The Chemical, Physical and Biological Nature of Love and the Exploration of Meaning Pt 1”. Blame My Youths’ “Right Where You Belong” and Weezer’s “Beginning of the End” are also notable highlights, with the finale track “Face The Music” building to a great crescendo.
Incredibly silly but full of heart, Bill and Ted Face The Music is the family film we all need right now. Featuring a wonderful message of bringing the world together, Reeves and Winters remind us now more than ever, we need to be excellent to each other.