First, they went back in time to save their high school history report. Then, they went to Hell and diced with Death to save their souls. Now, Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music, and the fate of the universe is in their hands. Whoa.
Directed by Dean Parisot, this long-awaited sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey combines the best elements of the first two films and takes them to new heights, delivering one last hurrah that’s both hilarious and heart-warming.
The year is 2020. Still living in San Dimas, California, Bill and Ted haven’t yet written the song that is supposed to save the universe, as prophesised 30 years earlier. Their band Wyld Stallyns enjoyed a modicum of fame and success for a while, but now as middle-aged men, they find themselves playing to an audience of 40 people at best.
Although they’re lovingly supported by their music-mad daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), their wives — the 15th-century English princesses Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays) — aren’t quite so impressed with their lacklustre musical career.
With the prophecy unfulfilled, and time and space collapsing around them, Bill and Ted are visited from the future by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their old pal Rufus (played in Excellent Adventure by George Carlin, who passed away in 2008). Kelly takes the duo to The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), who warns them that the universe as they know it will cease to exist if they don’t write the song by that evening. With the help of their daughters, Bill and Ted set out to gather a band and fulfil their destiny.
It’s been three decades since the world last saw these two lovable idiots in Bogus Journey, but fans of the franchise will be relieved to find that its goofy charm hasn’t been tainted by the passage of time. Bill and Ted may be 30 years older, but that doesn’t mean they’re more mature, and the film itself doesn’t try to act grown up. Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who also wrote the other films, have upheld the youthful, uncynical spirit that defines the series, and so have their two leading men, despite now being in their 50s.
Key to the success of Bill & Ted is the chemistry between Winter and Reeves, and it’s clear this hasn’t faltered over the years. It can’t be easy to slip back into a role that’s been left untouched for almost 30 years, but the two largely succeed at it. Winter — in particular — looks like he’s having the time of his life, and it’s great seeing him back onscreen after his many years behind the camera as a director.
Like the previous instalments, Face the Music is short and sweet, clocking in at around 90 minutes. But a longer runtime definitely would not have gone amiss, given how much plot is packed in and how many new characters are introduced. Two of the standouts are Schaal, who is hilarious as Kelly, and Anthony Carrigan, who plays a futuristic robot going through an identity crisis.
And of course, leading the new cast are Lundy-Paine and Weaving as Billie and Thea, aka “Little Bill and Ted”, who are incredibly entertaining to watch. Unsurprisingly, they’re just like their fathers with their infectious wholesome energy, love of music and ride-or-die friendship, but they’re also super intelligent. Could a spin-off be in the cards for these two? Here’s hoping.
The threequel wouldn’t be the same without at least some of the other original cast members returning. Ted’s father Officer Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) and former stepmother Missy (Amy Stoch) appear in a few scenes, and William Sadler makes a most outstanding return as fan-favourite Death, still as sprightly as ever. It’s a shame that Kimberley LaBelle and Diane Franklin didn’t reprise their roles as the princesses from the first film, but Hayes and Mays prove to be worthy replacements (and their English accents are a bit more believable too!).
One of Bill and Ted’s most beloved phrases, “Be excellent to each other”, is even timelier now than when it was written in 1989. With its overarching themes of unity and friendship, Face the Music is the epitome of this message, especially in its gloriously uplifting final scene. Without a doubt, this is the film the world needs right now.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is available in cinemas and on VOD now
by Holly Weaver