Bill And Ted Face The Music opens in New Zealand later this week. But Crave!, ever at the cutting edge of film reviews, has secured an exclusive guest review from our USA corrrespondent, Kate Whitcomb.
Three decades after the story of William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) began, the trilogy finally reaches its conclusion. Their first adventure, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (and to a lesser extent, its sequel “Bill’s & Ted’s Bogus Journey”) have become cult classics for Gen Xers and Millenials who remember its catchphrases permeating pop culture in the early 90s. Keanu indicated almost exactly 10 years ago that the original Bill & Ted writers, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, were working on a script for the final installment. Now their original fans, all grown up themselves, finally get to see what happened when the Wyld Stallyns fulfill the prophecy to unite the world with their music.
When we see our heroes Bill and Ted, they have fallen far from their foretold fame and heroism prophesied by Rufus (George Carlin) 30 years ago, now playing to a smattering of patrons at an Elks Lodge. They’ve married the princesses (Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays), who have become disillusioned with their lives in modern times, leading to a couples’ therapy session during which Bill and Ted are predictably clueless of the problem. Contrasting with the parent-child dynamics of the first two movies, Billie (Ted’s daughter, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Bill’s daughter, played by Samara Weaving) idolize their fathers by emulating their style, their speech, and especially their vast knowledge and appreciation of music. When Rufus’s daughter, Kelly (Kristen Schaal) appears and takes Bill and Ted to the future, they learn that unless they produce the song foretold to unite the world by 7:17 that night, not only will the world end, but the entire space-time continuum will shatter. They use their trusty phone booth time machine to ask their older selves for the song once it’s already been written in the future, while their daughters take Kelly’s time machine through history to help their dads by compiling the most excellent band the world has ever seen.
The daughters’ adventure almost perfectly mirrors that of the first film and it’s sweet to watch Billie and Thea reenact their beloved fathers’ original journey, but by no means is it a particularly creative or hilarious storyline. There are enjoyable moments, mostly involving the musicians meeting their own musical heroes from the past, but their storyline suffers overall without the creativity of a unique plot yet lacking the time required to get to know each of the historical characters in the way their fathers so memorably did. Their fathers’ journey is more original and offers some memorable interactions with their older selves, even a surprisingly poignant one towards the end. The movie doesn’t reach its comedic high point until the introduction of a new ally and the reintroduction of an old nemesis in the third act. The higher stakes introduced near the beginning of the movie are unnecessary and feel shoe-horned in, but they allow an opportunity for silly visual effects and Easter eggs as we near the end.
Keanu Reeves is, surprisingly, the weaker of the two leads as his mannerisms appear subdued and his reactions lack the clueless exuberance his character is known for. Ted still seems perpetually confused, but not in a fun way. Alex Winters, on the other hand, will truly make you believe he’s still Bill, just all grown up — everything from his facial expressions to the way he stands with his arms slightly out and chest puffed are perfectly reminiscent of what has always made his character so lovable. The daughters are written to be pretty much indistinguishable from each other but Brigette Lundy-Paine in particular does an excellent job at embodying the essence of Ted that Reeves so sorely lacked this time around. The princesses, similarly, also don’t have much in the way of personalities and it seems like a waste of talent, particularly with Jayma Mays who has shown some serious comedic acting chops in the past. They were also both inexplicably 10-15 years younger than the husbands they met when they were all teenagers. A performance by Anthony Carrigan as an inept killer robot is truly a highlight, though the audience will have to wait until the third act to finally enjoy it.
The finale, and the movie in general, may be corny and over-the-top but that’s what anyone who saw the first two movies should be expecting. Some scenes drag on with little or no comedic payoff, but the movie picks up as it progresses. While one could justifiably call the whole production “fan-service,” it doesn’t rely entirely on callbacks, cameos, and Easter eggs for its jokes to land. With its lack of subtlety or non-sequitur humor, it likely won’t be a huge hit with the teens and kids of today, but its wholesome nostalgia and earnest characters will surely be enjoyed by those who were teens and kids in the original movies’ heyday.
Kate Whitcomb blogs about language at The Layman’s Linguist, and tweets quite extensively and fascinatingly about language.