After thirty long years, Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are reuniting to hit the big screen again. In the in-universe story of Bill & Ted, however, “reuniting” is the wrong word to use: Since the adventures of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, they’ve never been apart. They’re joined at the hip – and that’s the problem.
With a script by longtime Bill & Ted writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson and directed by Dean Parisot, Bill & Ted Face the Music explores the lives of the middle-aged rockers, who are blithely, obliviously co-dependent on each other. And though they’re grown up now, both husbands and dads to a daughter each, they still haven’t evolved much beyond their teen years. No one has ever accused Bill & Ted of having too much self-awareness. They’ve had a semi-successful career as musicians, but their star has faded, their bandmates quit Wyld Stallyn and now they’re washed-up and stuck in a rut. Things go from bad to worse when they are confronted by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), daughter of Rufus (the late George Carlin), who shows up with a dire warning: If Bill & Ted don’t finally write the ultimate song that unites the world, the very fabric of time and space will break down. Bummer, dude. So the plucky duo has to go on another adventure through time, having struck upon the actually-pretty-brilliant idea of visiting their future selves and taking the song after their future selves have already written it.
Making things worse is the fact their wives, Elizabeth and Joanna (same 14th century princess characters, different actresses with Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) are bored and unhappy and thinking of leaving them. Oh, and there’s also a killer robot (Anthony Carrigan) chasing them, sent on a mission by The Great Leader (Holland Taylor) to kill them as she’s run out of patience with the bumbling duo. Meanwhile, their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigitte Lundy-Paine) are determined to help their dads and also race around time collecting some of history’s greatest musicians to form the band.
So does Bill & Ted Face the Music stay true to the spirit of the first two beloved movies? Does the franchise – and Bill & Ted’s brand of dimwitted surfer humor – hold up after 30 years? Here are three reasons to watch Bill & Ted Face the Music when it hits theaters this weekend.
1. It Has A Sweetness That’s Missing From Modern Movies
Neither Bill and Ted as characters nor Bill & Ted as a franchise have changed much in the three decades since we saw them last and it ultimately makes for a fairly cheesy movie. All due respect to Reeves and Winter, who are both beloved and respected actors, but it’s clear the costume of Bill and Ted don’t fit as naturally on them anymore. Both have come a long way from the surfer bros they were then, and even Reeves, with the trademark “Whoa!” of his youth, is now an elder statesman of Hollywood; the cadences of the extremely obtuse Bill and Ted don’t come as naturally and at times, the banter between them feels forced.
By the end of the movie, however, you realize that it’s exactly what it should be. Too often, franchises tackling a lengthy gap of decades between movies do too much, either reinventing the wheel or trying to make it bigger and grittier in a way that doesn’t feel true to the spirit of it all. But Bill & Ted Face the Music only ever tries to be exactly what it has always been. Bill and Ted’s humor may not be as savvy as modern humor, but the tradeoff is there is an earnest sweetness and a welcome simplicity to the movie that is exceptionally lacking in movies today. The idea that a single song can unite the world in rocking out together is almost adorable in its naiveté, one that would never get pitched today without a studio trying to make it bigger, a spectacle. But that sweetness of spirit and lightness of story makes for a lovely watch, a balm to soothe the soul in dark times. To their credit, Solomon and Matheson recognized that Bill & Ted simply doesn’t work if it’s trying to cater to modern audiences rather than being true to itself and it makes for a better movie, even if it does feel a bit like a relic from a bygone era.
2. It’s Laugh-Out-Loud Funny At Times
The humor of Bill and Ted themselves may not tickle a modern audience’s funny bone, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hysterical moments in the movie. There is one deeply funny scene that takes place at a wedding in which the duo’s penchant for not reading the room leads to the most cringe-worthy performance ever.
But in particular, Anthony Carrigan steals the movie as the killer robot, whose real name is Dennis Caleb McCoy (as he will tell you over and over again). In one scene, as he stands in Ted’s garage after having just royally screwed up in his mission, for the first time he drops the menacing act and Carrigan’s line and nonverbal reaction are a Hall of Fame-worthy moment of comedic delivery. Continuously throughout the movie, he steals scenes away from main characters played by bigger actors and it’s never not incredibly funny.
Likewise, it’s a great deal of fun seeing Thea and Billie gathering up a phone booth full of history’s greatest musicians. I won’t spoil them all for you here, because half the fun of it is seeing where they stop and who they recruit, but I will say the uncredited Daniel Door, who plays Mozart, also injects some great comedic moments when he indignantly squawks something in German as the great Austrian composer. The musicians don’t get much to do, but, again, that’s not the point of the Bill & Ted franchise and never has been. The delight is in imagining these great historical figures interacting with one another and navigating the modern world. And you know what? It still works as a hook.
3. Old-School Fans Of The OG Movies Will Be Satisifed
The characters of Bill and Ted may not have evolved much, but the story also remains true to its roots. The movie remains faithful to the first two movies in a way that fans of the originals should be pleased with. Storylines set up in the original movies continue through this one. Bill and Ted, for example, are married to the 14th-century princesses they were engaged to back then (though played by different actresses this time around). California and, in particular, San Dimas are still pivotal settings in the story. Death still plays – or at least, played – bass in Wyld Stallyns. And there is a tributary nod to the late, great George Carlin, using archive footage of Carlin to create a holographic version of Rufus. Franchise newcomers Weaving and Lundy-Paine inject enough of a new direction for the franchise in a twist I won’t spoil here, but there’s more than enough for old fans of Bill & Ted to dive into a warm bath of nostalgia.
Ultimately, Bill & Ted is exactly what it’s always been which is exactly what is needed right now. Party right on, my good and loyal dudes. Party right on.
Bill & Ted Face the Music hits theaters this Friday, August 28th.