Oh, how my parents hated Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves).
When Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out in 1989, I immediately started talking like the goofy Californian high-school slackers — despite the fact that I was a nerdy Midwestern girl. My family was so sick of hearing exclamations like “Bogus!”, “Excellent!”, “Bodacious!”, “Yes way!” and “Heinous” that I believe at one point they even had a jar I was supposed to put money into every time I uttered one of their trademarked phrases. I still quote the movie to this day. A lot.
So, yeah, you could say I’m a fan (though I wasn’t as taken with 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey). However, if you’ve ever been a big fan of anything, you know the trepidation that comes with learning that thirty years after the original, there’s going to be another installment of whatever it is you love so much. I found myself both dreading and nervously excited for this year’s Bill & Ted Face The Music, which is now streaming on Redbox On Demand.
Thankfully, there was nothing to fear, except The Reaper (see what I did there, Blue Öyster Cult fans?). That’s right, Death (William Sadler) is back again. Our not-too-bright heroes are still rocking out as The Wyld Stallyns and reunite with Death during their quest to not only bring the world together through music, but also preserve the nature of time and reality as we know it. That’s some major pressure for our middle-aged friends, who are also trying to save their shaky marriages (to the medieval princesses from the first movie). However, their daughters, Thea Preston (Samara Weaving) and Billie Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine), are filled with nothing but love and adoration for their dads.
So when the girls see their dads disappear in a spaceship, you can be sure they’re going to figure out a way to help save them.
In the original film, Rufus (the late George Carlin) visits Bill and Ted from the future and informs them that one day they will write music that inspires a utopian society. Now, Rufus’s daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal) is the one who zaps the men into the future, where they’re debriefed on how time will cease to exist if they don’t hurry up and deliver the prophesized world-changing song … by 7:17 pm that very evening.
Bill and Ted decide the only way they can pull off this feat is to steal the song from their future selves, so they get back into their old phone booth and start traveling forward through time. Meanwhile, Kelly hooks Thea and Billie up with a time-travel machine of their own. The girls decide to assemble a back-up band for their dads’ gig of a lifetime. A back-up band full of the world’s best musicians from the past.
It’s all good-natured, silly fun. If you’ve never seen the previous movies, my guess is that a lot of the performances in Face the Music might seem like horrendous acting and elicit several eye rolls. But the reality is that everyone in the cast is simply upholding the positive tone and dopey, innocent spirit of the first two movies. Winter and Reeves slipped right back into their roles effortlessly, and their real-life decades-long friendship was likely the key to making this film work. Scenes in which they each spend time alone with the oldest versions of themselves that they visit in the future are particular highlights — hilarious and slightly stupid, but also heartbreakingly sweet. And I also need to mention that it’s straight-up freaky how well Lundy-Paine channeled a young Ted/Keanu. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K, indeed!
The only opportunity I think director Dean Parisot and screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon missed was having the historical figures (I won’t spoil who they are) interact more with technology and products in the present day. That was a big part of what made the original film so awesome — seeing Joan of Arc leading an aerobics class, Beethoven jamming on multiple electronic keyboards at the mall, and Genghis Khan trading his club for an aluminum baseball bat before proceeding to destroy a sports store. This time around, the focus was more on Bill and Ted’s interactions with several versions of their future selves, and while it was entertaining, it felt a bit repetitive after a while.
But honestly this movie was just what I needed right now, and I hope it is for you, too. There isn’t a sarcastic or nasty or negative moment to be found, so you know it’s going to end on an upbeat note with an inspiring message. It’s almost like they really did travel through time back in 1989 and return with the key to surviving 2020: Be excellent to each other. (And [after COVID-19 is behind us…] party on, dudes!