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The third and final installment in the Bill and Ted series comes at a time where the relentlessly optimistic duo are seemingly needed the most. With a global pandemic bringing about yet another recession along with continuing drought, wildfires and political unrest, the idea of our dim but loveable heroes having to once again save the fabric of time and space as we know it has a strange resonance. It wasn’t the intention of the film makers but the pure escapism of the Wyld Stallyns is perfectly timed for these uncertain and stressful times.
An opening montage explains what our heroes Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have been up to in the 29 years since we last saw them, taking in the rise and fall of their musical careers as they struggle (and fail) to write the song that will save the universe. From here, we find our heroes still married to the Princesses from the original movies (but attending marriage counselling) and raising daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) who have taken after their fathers when it comes to their mannerisms and love of music. When the daughter of original character Rufus (played by the late George Carlin) summons the now middle aged Bill and Ted to the future, they learn they have 75 minutes to save the universe with their, as yet, still unwritten song.
In a world where movies keep getting longer, Bill and Ted Face the Music’s ticking clock plot device that plays out in almost real time makes this a definite throwback to when movies were 90 minutes long and breezy fun. Bill and Ted decide to travel to the future and steal the song from themselves after they have written it which they determine is definitely not actual theft. Meanwhile, their daughters have their own sub plot, travelling through time to enlist the help of famous musicians in soft rethread of the original Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves slip back into their roles effortlessly, both actors looking remarkably fresh faced and full of enthusiasm for the return. The boys are now most definitely men and have reached a point in their lives where they are just about ready to give up on their dreams which lends a slight air of melancholy to proceedings that is not really explored in too much detail.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is not a serious examination of a life not lived to its fullest potential, after all. It’s a Bill and Ted movie and crucially, it feels like one. This extends to the relatively small budget sometimes showing it’s limitations like in the future scenes that feature a largely unpopulated and cold landscape of smooth white rooms and clean lines that’s cheaply rendered on a greenscreen stage.
The spectacle of Hell is also less charming when it’s also just a series of well rendered rocks and demons flying around but the appearance of Death (a returning William Sadler) is a highlight. The only confusing character is the killer robot called Denis who goes from cold and functional to acting like he’s improving in a Judd Apatow film. He’s played by the wonderful Anthony Carrigan from the show Barry but it feels like there were a couple of scenes missing that would have made his arc a little bit easier to comprehend.
Likewise, the princesses go on their own adventure visiting Bill and Teds from different realities but none of these scenes are shown bar one where it intersects with the main plot so I suppose they couldn’t cut that one out. In the end, they are given little to do.
There is charm in spades in Bill and Ted Face the Music and a lightness of touch from director Dean Parisot but it feels a little rushed, ironic since they were trying to get the project off the ground for ten years. Of course the time travel logic doesn’t hold up to scrutiny but neither does the time travel logic of any film. But if you are watching this movie thinking that Bill and Ted should be living in mansions from their royalties after being the biggest band in the world in the early 90’s instead of living in regular houses and considering selling their guitars for money then you are not suspending your disbelief and are taking the world of Bill and Ted way too seriously, dude.
I first saw Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure on a Saturday afternoon with my family and that’s what this new movie is. It’s a perfect Saturday afternoon movie to watch with the whole family. It’s not excellent, it’s certainly not bogus, but it’s an enjoyable and sweet natured send off.