Bill & Ted Face the Music: More Excellent than Bogus
In recent years Hollywood has become flooded with attempts to cash in on nostalgia for properties of decades past — it feels like rarely a month goes by lately without an announcement of a reboot of or sequel to a fondly remembered film from the ‘80s or ‘90s. Compounded with the market saturation is the overwhelming sense that very few of these new entries are any good; an air of cynicism has set in, making it hard to feel any optimism about the latest entry that’s been “30 years in the making” or whatever the tagline is this time around. But there’s an exception to every rule, and while so many similar projects have actively made you wish you were watching the originals instead, Bill & Ted Face the Music manages to capture the spirit of its predecessors and remind us why these two lovable goofballs from San Dimas are so endearing.
The premise is fairly straightforward — or, as straightforward as a movie involving time travel, alternate histories, and the impending destruction of reality can be. It’s been 30 years since we last saw Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves), and they’ve gone from global musical superstardom to playing weddings with their increasingly unlistenable tunes. That song they were destined to write that would unite the world? They still haven’t cracked it, a failure that unexpectedly rears its mighty head and sends them on yet another time-jumping quest. The film basically cribs the backbones from both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, but in the most loving way possible.
It’s this love of the originals and the characters that leads Face the Music to succeed, due in large part to the talent involved. Reeves and Winter are back of course, but so are Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon — the creators and screenwriters of the first two movies. By keeping things in the family, you wind up with a film that feels like a true and natural evolution as opposed to reverence or parody. It would be easy for a project like this to be overly self-referential or to distance itself from the characters in the name of faux-modernization, but it’s clear that the cast and crew have no desire to make that kind of movie. What they give us instead is a film about the weight of expectations — not a metacommentary about the expectations of making another Bill & Ted movie, but the actual expectations placed on youth and how they grapple with that as they age.
As they skip across time, our two leads are forced to reflect on notions of mortality, self-respect, and the legacy they leave behind, but every conclusion they come to feels genuine, earned, and completely in character. Though they’re joined by a delightful supporting cast (including Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Bill and Ted’s respective daughters, clearly having a blast doing impressions of their co-stars), this is Reeves and Winters’ show, and it’s touching to see how easily they slip back into the roles that defined them early in their careers. Winters recaptures his youthful energy with the barest touch of melancholy, while Reeves cleverly uses his own evolution as both an actor and a movie star to subtly indicate how time works its tricks on all of us.
Am I overselling all this? Perhaps. The film is slight, to be sure, and certainly more concerned with having fun than the ruminations on life and self-actualization I’ve been discussing. But I was genuinely moved by the film’s kindheartedness, joy, and generosity. In a moment where warmth often feels lacking, a simple reminder to be excellent to each other goes a long way.