Back in 1991, I thought that Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was the greatest movie of all time. Sure, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was pretty incredible too, but with the addition of Death… Station… evil robot Bill & Ted… it was all just genius as far as I was concerned. My movie watching habits since the nineties have shown me that neither of those films is actually the greatest of all time (well, maybe top 50), but that certainly didn’t stop me from getting ridiculously giddy with excitement at the prospect of a third outing. Even more so after successfully introducing my youngest daughter to both movies recently… at which point, I also concluded that Excellent Adventure was, in fact, the better of the two!
So, here we are. 29 years on from Bogus Journey, where we find Bill & Ted at a very difficult time in their lives. Dwindling popularity and record sales mean that their destiny of uniting the world with a single song is now becoming increasingly unlikely. A wedding reception where Bill & Ted unveil their latest musical creation to a less than lukewarm reception gives us a nice nostalgic chance to see some familiar faces from the previous movies and also brings us quickly up to speed on the lives of our two heroes. Still married to the medieval princesses (Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes), they now both have grown-up daughters, Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Billie (Samara Weaving). Both girls are like younger versions of their fathers, making heavy use of the word ‘dude’, and with extensive musical tastes and knowledge. They worship their fathers and truly believe in their music.
Following the wedding reception, a trip to couples therapy shows us that it’s not just their music career that’s heading for the rocks. There’s even talk of breaking up the band – “We’ve spent our entire lives trying to unite the world. And I’m tired, dude” Ted confesses to Bill. And as their destiny begins to fracture, reality also starts to unravel, with historical figures randomly being sucked from their own time and dumped into another.
Arriving just in the nick of time is a traveller from the future. Kelly (Kristen Schaal) lands in an egg-shaped time machine and whisks the boys into the future where they realise that they are now no longer being worshipped. They are told, in no uncertain terms, that they have just 77 minutes to come up with the song they were destined to write, or the past, present and future are all going to collide, resulting in the world collapsing in on itself. Woah!
Resigning themselves to the fact that if they haven’t been able to come up with the song in the last couple of decades, they’re unlikely to come up with it in the next 77 minutes, Bill & Ted land on the lazy but genius idea that they can simply go to the future and steal the song from their future selves. So, they begin jumping forward to various points in time and meeting up with different versions of themselves. We get overweight rock star Bill & Ted, complete with dodgy British accents, butch prison inmate Bill & Ted and even OAP nursing home Bill & Ted.
Meanwhile, daughters Thea and Billie come up with a slightly more solid plan of action that involves picking up prominent musicians from history and forming them into the ultimate band, in the hopes that their combined talents will create the song that saves the world. It’s a race against time, as both missions play out simultaneously, taking in a trip to hell, recruiting ex-band member Death (William Sandler) and trying to outwit a robot who’s out to kill them. It’s basically a greatest hits remix of the first two movies.
It took some time for me to adjust to seeing Keanu Reeves outside of his role as John Wick – clean-shaven and considerably less dangerous. Both he and Alex Winter are obviously much older than when we last saw them as Bill & Ted, but it was surprising just how well they slipped right back into the roles. It honestly felt so good to be back in the company of these guys. The daughters are also a welcome addition, although they feel underused, and being separated from their fathers for much of the movie means that everything feels a lot more chaotic and messy than we’re used to.
Bill & Ted Face the Music rattles along at a brisk pace and the ending felt somewhat rushed and abrupt. Something about the whole thing just doesn’t feel right and I didn’t feel as though we were ever getting very much time to explore or experience a particular scene or idea before we were straight onto the next. It is funny at times, but with most of it essentially just a reworking of themes and ideas from the earlier movies it ends up being the weakest of the trilogy, which is a real shame.
I’ve got so much love for these characters and their movies that I feel bad being negative towards this. However, I can’t help feeling that Face the Music teeters on the edge of ‘maybe they should have just left well alone after the last movie’ a little too often. At the end of the day though, I can’t really knock a movie that’s essentially harmless fun, and more importantly, carries with it a message about uniting the world and being excellent to each other. I think we all could appreciate that philosophy in our lives right now.