Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter finally return to the big screen as Bill & Ted – and Face The Music doesn’t let us down.
Appreciating that it’s never likely to make a poster quote, one of the main feelings I had come the end of Bill & Ted Face The Music was outright relief. The film, after all, had become something of a mysterious MacGuffin to its fans, the treasure that felt unattainable. Then when it was confirmed that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were definitely returning to play the title pair some three decades after they last stepped into their shoes, anyone who cared for the first two films couldn’t help but worry. Hollywood’s hit rate with very belated sequels is hardly on the high side.
And yet Bill & Ted Face The Music works, in large part down to its consistency. That the screenwriters of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson – have stuck with it. Director Dean Parisot – new to the series, but with Galaxy Quest on his CV – has stayed aboard the project for the best part of a decade. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter have kept it all ticking too. And by retaining a team so obviously committed to getting all of this made, they’ve between them fashioned a film that’s as charming as anything I’ve seen all year.
A little bit of expectation management first. I personally regard Bogus Journey as not just the highpoint of this series, but also as one of the outright funniest and most joyful comedies of the 90s. Face The Music isn’t at that level. But what it does do is pick up the thread from that film – that Bill and Ted will eventually write the song that brings the universe together – and carry it forward several decades. We meet the title characters looking and feeling a little lost, their band long abandoning them, and the elusive, all-important song no closer to fruition. Oh, and they’re both in marriage counselling too, as their relationships with the Princesses – Elizabeth and Joanna – are struggling.
Everything is going wrong.
Meanwhile, in the future, all hell is about to break loose, as the clock is very much ticking. Suddenly, it’s imperative the pair get said song written and they’ve got just hours to do it. Cue something of a Bill & Ted greatest hits, as Reeves and Winter get back in the phone booth and head forward in time to try and rob the song from their future selves.
Then the film plays its absolutely trump card: Theadora ‘Thea’ Preston and Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Logan, their daughters, played by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. I can’t begin to comprehend how tricky it must be for two young actors to join a series at its third film in pivotal roles, and pretty much steal the movie. But Weaving and Lundy-Paine are just brilliant. As their fathers go forward in time, they rustle together a plan themselves, and that’s all the plot I’m telling. Instead, just huge plaudits to the pair of them.
Mind you, Reeves and Winter are no slouches. There’s something both comforting and enjoyable about seeing the pair manage to reconnect with the characters and make them work in middle age. I can’t speak to whether all of what they get up to will be accessible for those new to the series – there’s no shortage of treats for fans, that I won’t spoil – but I do feel that a Bill & Ted film is a very welcoming space. And this one is particularly charming.
That it feels a minor miracle it’s made it in such good shape doesn’t blind me to a problem or two. My big one is that it feels like the movie simply stops when it’s done. I admire the economy of that, but I did wonder if there’s a more impactful way it could have concluded. That said, the delightful end credits did quickly distract me from that. I’m also conscious that it’s nowhere near as bold as Bogus Journey.
But particular given the time in which Bill & Ted Face The Music joins us, this is a very welcome, very warm and sweet sequel. I’m glad it exists. And I’m happy to add my name to the list of people looking for a Thea and Billie spin-off movie too…
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