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Bill & Ted Face the Music Review: This Sequel is Far From Bogus

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Did we need a movie about a middle-aged William S. "Bill" Preston, Esq. and Theodore "Ted" Logan? Bill & Ted Face the Music makes a sturdy case the answer is yes. Much like their fellow heterosexual life mate duo Jay and Silent Bob in last year's Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, age is becoming of the charmingly dim-witted (yet secretly profound) members of the Wyld Stallyns, a rock band supposedly destined to usher in a utopian society in the 27th century. It's a lot for them to live up to, and the same could be said for Bill & Ted creators/writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, when it comes to their efforts to craft a worthy third installment in their cult sci-fi comedy franchise. Face the Music is clearly a passion project for the minds behind Bill & Ted, and it results in a sequel that coasts by on its goofy humor and heart.

Since last we saw them, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have and haven't changed much. Their fashion sense is a little more modern (sadly, no more crop tops for Bill), they're now proud dads to their respective 24-year old daughters, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigett Lundy-Paine), and are still struggling to write a song that will usher in an era of peace for humanity. Speaking of daughters: one day, Kelly (Kristen Schaal), whose father was the time-traveling Rufus (the late George Carlin, appearing here via repurposed archived footage), shows up to bring Bill and Ted back to the 27th century. There, her mother, The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), informs them they must write their hit song in the next 78 minutes or reality itself will collapse. Either that or they have to die, so no pressure.

In an age where most belated sequels are really soft reboots designed to revive an intellectual property, Face the Music is refreshingly uninterested in setting up future movies. It's equally devoid of excessive fan-service or nostalgic callbacks. Sure, it has both, but nothing that ever feels like it's trying to remind you of what you loved about the previous Bill & Ted adventures without bringing anything new to the table. Instead, Matheson and Solomon's script (which they wrote on spec) plays out as a proper continuation of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, but with a newfound sense of maturity and sensitivity befitting of a comedy - even a lowbrow one - releasing in 2020: the drama is more earnest, the historical figures who pop up are less problematic (well, maybe not White Jesus, but he only makes a quick cameo), and the women actually get to be funny, especially Thea and Billie.

Though not quite as knuckle-brained as their dads were at their age, Billie and Thea are a chip off the same dude-block as Bill and Ted. It's a delight to watch Lundy-Paine and Weaving channel Winter and Reeves' mannerisms, while at the same time adding enough of their own personalities to avoid coming off as a gender-swapped rehashing of their slacker musicians. (Lundy-Paine, for context, came out as non-binary after they filmed their role as Billie.) The pair even get an important subplot in the film, which both gives Face the Music an excuse to acknowledge the breadth and cultural diversity of music history and prevents the characters from feeling like a lazy attempt to fill an inclusiveness quota.

Winter and Reeves are more or less repeating their performances from the previous movies in Face the Music, but with some newly-gained emotional wisdom that makes you think sure, this is exactly what middled-aged Bill and Ted who've spent the past three decades trying to fulfill their destiny would be like. Perhaps to make things more interesting for the actors, the sequel has Bill and Ted trying to "steal" their universe-saving song from their future selves, allowing Winter and Reeves to don a variety of prosthetics and wigs to play older iterations of their characters in a silly running gag that works more often than it doesn't. Jayma Mays and Erin Hayes are given far less to do as Bill and Ted's wives (the out-of-time princesses Joanna and Elizabeth), yet make for good straight-women to their husbands during a couple's therapy session that certainly earns a chuckle.

As a sci-fi story, Face the Music is surprisingly sophisticated (seriously, time-travel makes more sense here than it does in Avengers: Endgame), and director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) does a good job keeping the jokes and amusing side characters - like William Sadler, back as Bogus Adventure's musically-inclined Grim Reaper, and Anthony Carrigan as a neurotic robo-assassin from the 27th century - flying fast in-between the explanations of the film's quantum mechanics. He doesn't try and evolve the series' visual vocabulary either: the time-travel sequences are done using the same charmingly clunky '80s-era graphics as they were in the earlier Bill & Ted movies (now with improved CGI). Face the Music stretches its $25 million budget as far as it can go to bring its different historical settings to passable life, and if anything its flat aesthetic is appropriate for a sequel where nobody involved seems all too concerned about blowing audience's minds - and that's not a complaint, either.

That, in a nutshell, is what makes Face the Music a sincere joy: it's not trying to re-invent the Bill & Ted wheel, it's just a fun and good-natured way for fans of the earlier movies to revisit this zany universe. It's a film that's so decidedly uninterested in being hip or trendy (even its post-credits scenes are a callback to the idea that credits sequences should be a playful one-off bit, not a glorified teaser for later sequels), it's easier to overlook its flaws and appreciate the simplicity of its heartfelt message in times as stressful and chaotic as these. Shoot, maybe Bill and Ted really can save the world.

Bill & Ted Face the Music becomes available to watch on VOD and in select theaters on Friday, August 28. It is 88 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some language.


Bill And Ted 3/Bill & Ted Face The Music (2020)
Release Date: Aug 28, 2020


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