It’s been almost thirty years since the last installment in the Bill & Ted franchise, and it would be an understatement to say that a lot has changed in the cinematic landscape since then, certainly not limited to the comedy genre. Things have changed a lot in the time between the titular duo’s journey to hell in Bogus Journey and now. One recent development is that many studios have tried to do to bring forth audiences is reviving franchises from past decades in an attempt to cash in on nostalgia, and unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), many of them fail spectacularly. Whether they’re reboots of the beloved properties or direct sequels to prior installments, it’s no secret that many simply cannot capture the magic of the originals.
source: Orion Pictures
When Bill & Ted Face the Music was announced, one couldn’t blame me for being skeptical about it. After all, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a childhood favorite of mine, and after multiple rewatches, it still holds up as both one of the smartest and funniest 80s comedies of all time. With the lead talents of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves returning as the titular time-travelers, I was willing to go in with an open mind and hope for the best. Thankfully, this proved to be for the best, as Bill and Ted Face the Music surprisingly turned out to be, in the wise words of its heroes, most excellent after all.
More Satisfying Than Other Reboots
The film begins with a brief recap of everything that happened after Bogus Journey, explaining that Bill and Ted have spent decades attempting and failing to write and perform a song that was prophesied to unite the world, and as a result of this situation, the fabric of space and time is beginning to collapse. Historical figures have begun to disappear from their respective time periods, while in the present day, Bill and Ted continue to unsuccessfully fulfill the prophecy.
Despite having good relationships with their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), who both look up to their fathers and have a similar interest in music, their decades of failed music have led to a strained relationship with their wives. When Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (the time traveler that the duo met in the first film, played by George Carlin) arrives from the future to inform them that they only have little over one hour to complete the song, they attempt to fulfill the prophecy in time…and in the most Bill and Ted way possible, of course.
Source: Orion Pictures
Now, was the third entry in this franchise necessary? At first glance, maybe not. The first two films are fulfilling enough to stand alone in their own right, and have garnered enough of a following over the years to keep afloat for decades to come. The first Bill & Ted film, in particular, holds a special place in my heart as one of the films I remember enjoying heavily when I was younger, appreciating the departure from traditional comedy film narratives while still adhering to a relatively straightforward structure, delivering high-velocity laughs with effortless charm, without losing the magic touch of what made its story so special and unique.
Watching Bill & Ted Face the Music unfold is like experiencing a childhood dream play out within itself. We’ve all experienced one of our favorite films or franchises be rebooted, only for it to finally arrive in theaters after months of anticipation and not be what we expected at all. Bill & Ted Face the Music doesn’t do this because it doesn’t feel like a forced cash-grab like many other reboots or late sequels do. There’s a real passion for the world and the characters bursting from every frame unlike those other iterations of franchises that feel tired and bored with the material.
Light, Yet Emotionally Sound
As always, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter deliver wonderful, expressive performances that channel the soul of these characters in continuously charming and riveting ways. They’re goofy, and manage to carry over and embody the spirit of the previous two movies perfectly, never coming across as over-the-top in their line deliveries. A Bill & Ted film would amount to nothing without the magnetism of its two titular leads, and thankfully, Face the Music ensures that viewers get an experience worth the wait. Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine are equally terrific, often stealing the show in the scenes they’re prominently featured in. There are plenty of cameos as well, including one which I won’t spoil but that I nearly gasped out loud at (yes, it was that hilarious).
Even aside from the team behind the film seeming to really enjoy making it and bringing it to life after years of waiting, Bill and Ted Face the Music works most because, like its predecessors, it’s genuinely funny. The gags rarely feel stale or old; most of them, if not all, land with delicate heft. It’s surprising how strong the script is considering the material the story has to work with.
Source: Orion Pictures
It’s a very simple plot, one that obviously feels especially light compared to other, more complex time-travel films releasing around the same time, but never to the point where the story suffers as a result. That being said, even though the Bill & Ted films are deeply rooted in their hilarious one-liners and humorous characters, Face the Music takes that backbone and spins it into something much more. The film retains the comedic beats its predecessors perfected but also manages to generate a solid emotional core in addition to the laughs that define the script.
Bill and Ted Face the Music actually has a lot more to say about relationships than one might anticipate upon first glance. In fact, relationships (both marital and parental) define the movie. Bill and Ted’s daughters share similarities to them (their hair colors, as well as their general love for music and disdain for a lot of other things, stand out), which contributes to the theme at the movie’s core: the importance of generational traditions and how our relationships with our family members are affected by our actions over time and how our legacies aren’t always determined by us, but by those who we leave things for.
At the beginning of the film, it’s clear Bill and Ted have had trouble balancing their marriages with their songwriting, but by the end, the script allows a sense of catharsis to rush over the viewer in a way that is oddly poetic for a film so grounded in its comedy at times. Thankfully, it never rubs off as forced, and the film leaves the audience feeling perfectly satisfied with the events that transpire over the course of the narrative.
It’s refreshing to see a movie that enjoys being as unabashedly fun as Bill & Ted Face the Music does, but it’s equally nice to watch a reboot of a classic franchise that isn’t focused on setting up another installment in the event that this one goes as good as expected to. Face the Music shows that Reeves and Winter have not lost an ounce of their immeasurable chemistry over the decades, but the end credits don’t leave the viewer crying for a sequel nor sour at the prospect of an unnecessary one.
Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon’s script is sharp, witty, and poignant in all the right ways, but the film never feels heavy-handed in its execution. It’s just such a joyful rarity to watch a late entry in a franchise that feels like a worthwhile addition to the universe, one that cherishes its characters’ legacies and pays respect to them in lovely ways. Bill & Ted Face the Music acts as a charming ode to the past, present, and future that we create for ourselves and our loved ones, and how we are able to form connections through the power of being excellent to each other. Most bodacious, indeed.
Have you seen Bill & Ted Face the Music? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!
Bill & Ted Face the Music is now available to rent on VOD.
Watch Bill & Ted Face the Music