In 1989, theatergoers were treated to a goofy yet fun film called Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It involved a pair of high school students (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, whose vocabulary mainly consisted of “whoa, “dude,” and “totally”) who tried to save their grade in history by bringing major characters from history into class via time machine disguised as a phone booth. The sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, wasn’t as well received by audiences, but still kept the quirkiness as Bill and Ted adding bass guitar-playing Death to their band and married a pair of 14th century princesses as they worked on a song to unite humanity.
Thankfully, the phone booth has arrived in the form of Bill and Ted Face the Music! It’s just as fun and madcap as the two previous movies yet adds even more craziness to the fray. Despite a number of issues, it manages to succeed because, at its heart, the story always comes back to Bill and Ted.
In this third installment, we get to see Bill Preston (Winter) and Ted Logan (Reeves) still in search of that perfect song for their band, Wyld Stallyns. Unfortunately, time has worn on and the boys have been reduced from being part of a worldwide TV spectacular to performing at weddings using trumpets, steel pan drums, bagpipes, and a theremin. They are still married to the princesses but have a frightening inability of using the word “I” to declare their love to their wives, using “we” instead. They also have grown daughters named Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samantha Weaving) who are in search of the perfect musical collection and have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of bands, right down to key changes in songs. They spend the first portion of the film listening to music and eating Cheetos (more on that later).
When an egg-shaped item appears in their San Dimas cul-de-sac and Kelly (Kristen Schaal) appears, we learn that something bad is about to happen. Called ‘the Great Unraveling’, it was set in motion by Bill and Ted’s history project of 1989; famous characters are shifting positions in time and if not fixed, the world will end. They have to simply create that song—and they only have a few hours to do it! No pressure. They’re given a stern reprimand by the Great Leader (Holland Taylor), who thinks they can’t do it and later sends an android to kill them.
Bill and Ted then begin a spiral into a time travel sequence that is dizzying in its scope as they discover their future, what they can do about it, and themselves. Their kids see the issue and recreate, to some extent, their fathers’ original journey, this time grabbing famous musicians to create a band for Bill and Ted to play behind. A fun scene is watching Jimi Hendrix getting in the mind of a famous composer. Before this film is over, they’ll travel thousands of years, have a brush with Death (who cheats at hopscotch), and stand alongside their fathers for a final stand.
Some of the Bill and Ted purists might be upset that they had daughters instead of boys (as was alluded to in the last film), but Reeves and Winter use “Little Bill” and “Little Ted” to refer to Billie and Thea, so that’s not too much of an issue. For me, the bigger issue involves some rather obvious and obnoxious product placement—see if you can count the major brands represented! In addition, there’s some serious deus ex machina going on to tidy the film at the end, which makes the ending feel unearned. But perhaps that doesn’t matter in the end . . .
One line from the film that stuck with me involved a pocketwatch Bill and Ted are given by Kelly. It belonged to her late father Rufus (George Carlin, who director Dean Parisot honors with a nice holographic cameo) and when opened, contained this quote: “Sometimes things don’t make sense until the end of the story.” There are many days where I would just like to see—even for an instant—the effect of my life years from now. What did this action do? How did that 20 second conversation with someone make an impact in their life? What we see in reality is the back of a needlepoint project – there are lots of colors and string, but there seems to be no real rhyme or reason to any of it. That’s where God enters the picture. He’s got it all figured out–even in the middle of a global pandemic or those days when we’re struggling to make it through the next hour–and we will one day see the tapestry flip over to reveal why things happened the way they did. (As a Christian, I can’t help but be reminded of Paul, who put it this way: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” [Romans 8:18].)
Is Bill and Ted Face the Music going to win any Academy Awards? Nope.
Is it going to provide viewers a ninety-minute break from a world ravaged by a pandemic, besieged with protests, and deteriorating before our very eyes? It very well might!
Bill and Ted Face the Music is available in theatres and on PVOD now.