Thirty-one years ago, the world was introduced to one Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan, two hapless teens from San Dimas, California who happen to find themselves in the middle of space and time. Since then, the infamous Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have saved the world (Twice!), married princesses and battled Death himself.
We meet them now in “Bill & Ted Face the Music” as mere shadows of their former selves. The glory days of using music to change the world with the “Wyld Stallyns” are far behind them, and the realities of fatherhood and their absence and cluelessness as husbands are crashing down around them. It is within this personal dilemma that the future once again comes begging for help.
Reeves and Winter are so recognizable in these roles – despite the fact that it has been decades, viewers are instantly thrust back into that familiar world. There’s just something about that California Valley accent that has a way of transporting you back into the parking lot of the Circle K. While Winter never seemed to miss a beat, it was a bit distracting watching Reeves find his way back into the role. As a result, he never seemed as “in” as his co-star, but I guess years of being an action star can do that to you. That’s not to say he isn’t having a ton of fun, though, and the myriad of different ridiculous situations Bill and Ted find themselves in are at times hysterical.
When reviving a franchise that hasn’t been an active part of the public consciousness in decades, you’re going to have to deal with a number of fans who have lofty expectations simply due to the nostalgia factor. A father, like me, or a mother who grew up watching these films will have a completely different relationship than their children. Marrying these two expectations can be debilitating and is nearly impossible – you simply cannot please everyone.
What sets “Face the Music” apart from its peers is its purposefulness in keeping with the spirit of the previous films and characters, and also bringing a narrative maturity. The characters have grown older and so has its audience. The addition of their grown daughters, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), was a necessary “passing of the baton,” looping in multiple generations and adding some emotional weight to the story. The daughters could have had a bit more screen time, seeming a bit under developed as if they were just copies of their respective fathers, but with a film coming in at just 90 minutes, that’s a price you pay. The story is shot out of a canon right from the get-go and a lot is packed into its brief runtime.
Director Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) was able to juggle everything while still keeping the new story feeling fresh and fun. Bringing back screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, the writers of the first two films, was certainly no small part in the success of the revival, with Solomon serving as a producer as well. Their writing is spot on – “Bill & Ted” films are silly, cheesy, campy and, most of all, fun. You’ll be grinning ear to ear at all the callbacks and with every “whoa.”
Joining the fray for this adventure is a pretty great supporting cast, including Kristen Schaal playing the daughter to our beloved Rufus, DazMann Still and Jeremiah Craft playing some wonderfully accurate musicians and Anthony Carrigan as the side-splitting Denis Caleb McCoy.
If you’re a fan of the first two films, then you will certainly not be disappointed with this entry. “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is fun, light, and a very welcome dose of positivity and kindness. Another great reminder to be excellent to each other.
“Bill and Ted Face the Music” is available on VOD services and in select theaters on August 28.
Film critic and member of the North Carolina Film Critic Association.