Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Directed by Dean Parisot
It has been 29 years since we last saw Bill & Ted and the world is a very different place or is it? Maybe the flaws we see now are simply amplified with time and were always there. We’re just living in a crisis point where you can’t deny that things are falling apart around us. We’re the grown-ups now, in our forties and fifties, and, if we have a conscious, feel a level of guilt about our inaction during those prime years of our lives. But the world hasn’t ended yet, and we still have time to do something. We just have to overcome our baggage to have a clear mind about what to do next. This is where the Wyld Stallyns find themselves in 2020.
They appeared to be triumphant at the close of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. The Wyld Stallyns (Alex Winter & Keanu Reeves) had finally learned to play their instruments, formed a band, and began traveling the world. But one problem remained, the world was not united as one. And fractures formed as fame wreaked havoc on the band. Now they are local musicians, still keeping a positive mindset but feeling the wear of age and time. Billie (Bridgette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) have followed in their dad’s footsteps, hanging out in the garage. They aren’t musicians per se, but they have a rich understanding of music and an encyclopedic knowledge of artists through history. Their dads couldn’t be prouder of them. However, their mothers are concerned about how there is no line between the two couples, and they have always operated as one unit.
A call from the future comes in the form of Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus. Bill & Ted learn that the Great Ones of the distant future are disappointed that the song to unite the world has not happened and reveals that the duo has 70 minutes to write and perform it. Bill & Ted commandeer the old phone booth time machine and visit themselves five years in the future to discover the song isn’t written and their lives have gotten worse. With each subsequent jump into their own lives, the story worsens. However, their girls have a plan and are using Kelly’s time machine to go on an adventure of their own.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is not a movie masterwork, it is most certainly a piece of fan-focused entertainment. There is literally no way to watch this movie without knowing, and preferably having recently watched, the first two pictures. But as a piece of fan entertainment, it is a pretty awesome experience. If you have seen the trailers, you’ll likely have figured out the movie’s twist that centers around Billie and Thea. That is the jewel of the picture for me, the revelation in the third act about the “Bill & Ted” history mixed up and how, with huge grins on their faces, our old friends back up their daughters. In the Star Wars franchise, you have “fans” spitting acid about the expansion of the mythology and older characters stepping back to allow younger ones to have the spotlight, Bill & Ted has always been about positivity and supporting each other. Bill & Ted are happy even if they realize they aren’t the heroes who save reality but just following their kids’ lead.
There are some fantastic comedic moments here for all the actors involved. I think Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are extremely funny as they encounter their increasingly hostile and depressing future selves. Ten years into the future, the middle section, where the duo appears to have succeeded, is the funniest, in my opinion, once everything goes south. Lundy-Paine and Weaving are absolutely charming and endearing as their daughter, exuding that same sense of acceptance for everyone they meet. It’s pretty much perfect casting for those crucial roles.
This isn’t a perfect movie, though, and it attempts to take on a lot of plot in its an hour and a half runtime. You have Bill & Ted visiting multiple versions of their future selves, Billie & Thea on their own time travel journey, the Princess/Wives background subplot about their marriages, plus new characters and a trip to Hell where there is a reunion with Death (William Sadler). You can sometimes feel a sense of whiplash with how much the movie is trying to do. As a result, it is a lot of fun but runs into second act speed bumps as the writers are trying to bring characters together and have a cohesive third act conclusion. I can’t imagine a fan of the first two movies disliking this one because you genuinely get everything you would ever want.
I love the conclusion this picture brings to the franchise. I hope they don’t try to do more because it’s such a perfect endnote, the story of two dads realizing they aren’t the world’s focus anymore. They understand it’s time to amplify their daughter’s voices and talents to help them shine how they once did. My biggest complaint is that I wanted more time between the dads and daughters because they were enjoyable to see together. I am not one to give into heartwarming movie stuff, but this familial relationship was so wholesome while remaining honest.