Review by James Lindorf
Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are up to their time-traveling antics again, but they will have to face the music on August 28th in select theaters and On Demand. It has been 29 years since we saw the Wyld Stallyns take the stage at the battle of the bands. With the princesses, Station, and Death backing them up, Bill and Ted made themselves known to the world. That moment launched years of success with multiple number one hits and beloved albums. Over time as the pressure to write the song that would unite all humanity mounted, things began to fall apart. Now, three decades after learning of their impact on the future, Bill and Ted are middle-aged, desperate, and back at it alone after Death, Joanna, and Elizabeth all quit the band. What was supposed to be a song to bring harmony to the planet is now a song to save reality as we know it, and time is running out. Rufus’ daughter Kelly and The Great Leader inform the duo they have just 77 minutes and 25 seconds left to write THE song, because “If we don’t have the song by 7.17 pm, there is no after 7.17 pm.”
I know the internet’s biggest fear when trailers started coming out for Bill & Ted Face the Music was that it was going to be 15 minutes of Bill and Ted. Then their daughters would be the focus of the story. I will set your fears aside and say that is not the case. Yes, Billie and Thea are integral to the film’s plot, but they are still supporting Bill and Ted’s journey to becoming the band that saves and defines the world.
“Face the Music” is fun and light-hearted but still manages to have a bit of a message about the danger of expectations and being unable to look outside yourself for the answer. Director Dean Parisot balanced the tone between slapstick and serious, much like he did in his best movie “Galaxy Quest.” Original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon managed to skirt the two things that plague a film series with an extended break. Namely relying on the same old jokes or ditching the characters people love for new blood. “Face the Music” features plenty of callbacks, including a hologram Rufus, fish out of water time travelers, and even working 69 into a conversation, but they do not dominate the story.
While the creative team succeeded in making a new installment that feels like a continuation of the previous entries, not everything new or old was successful. William Sadler as Death was the best part of “Bogus Journey,” and he is still pretty good here. The biggest problem is the evolution of Death’s Czechoslovakian inspired accent, which went from believable to cartoonish. While that kind of humor fits the character, it was a bit distracting. New to the series is Brigette Lundy-Paine as Billie. She must either be a massive fan of the Bill & Ted movies or absolutely hate them by now. She had to study the films because she gives a tremendous physical performance. Completely nailing the way Keanu both carried and physically expressed himself as Ted. However, the dim suffer vibe doesn’t seem to fit her as naturally as it did Reeves. This leaves her performance feeling a bit like she is doing an impression of Ted instead of just being his daughter with similar traits. Samara Weaving as Thea does a better job of incorporating what Alex Winter did as Bill in her performance while having a sense of being her own character and not a facsimile.
Keanu has dominated Alex Winter in notoriety since their last time in these roles, but it is Winter who fully embraces being Bill once more. Keanu may not be able to party on like he used to, but it fits the story of the expectations beating them down. After 30 years of being downtrodden by being unable to come up with the song to save the world, anyone would lose a little exuberance if not have a full-on breakdown. Keanu’s stiffness as nearly 50-year-old Ted works, but it is a bit disappointing not seeing him in full-blown laid-back surfer dude mode.
The best element of the film is debatable. For me, it is the interaction between Bill and Ted with themselves at various points in time. This staple of the franchise drives the message of the film while still adding bits of humor. The worst part of the movie, however, is not open for discussion. The killer robot/Dennis Caleb McCoy is the most obnoxious part of the entire trilogy and offers nothing to the series. Every scene he is in is lesser for it. The ineffectual time hunter does nothing but serves as a way to reunite the duo with Death. The rest of his time is spent making jokes that fall flatter than Bill and Ted when they fell off the cliff in “Bogus Journey.”
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” may not have been everything I was hoping it would be, but it exceeded my expectations. It is the third-best movie in the trilogy, but it is something that I will own and watch every few years as I do with the others.