In Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music

"Not easy to work out what happens to two of pop culture's finest, almost thirty years after they last graced our screens in an adventure"

Synopsis: The Great Ones, Bill S. Preston Esq and Ted Theodore Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) aren’t really doing great. Their band, Wyld Stalyns hasn’t hit the heights they were destined supposedly destined to. Their music hasn’t united humanity in the way it promised to. Luckily there’s still time and following a visit from Rufus’s (George Carlin’s) daughter Kelly (Kristen Schall) all that’s about to change . . .

The Story

Not easy to work out what happens to two of pop culture’s finest, almost thirty years after they last graced our screens in an adventure. In short, they got on with their lives. We pick them up in the present day, struggling to keep the dream alive that music matters and that it’s everything. That’s the real theme in the story, as it always was. Like so many, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are told to grow up and get “proper” jobs. They still haven’t, Problems is, it’s starting to cause marital problems, as “the babes” (Erin Hayes as Elizabeth and Jayma Mays as Joanna) have had enough, finally. They’re going to need help, and fortunately, they have just the people on hand.

This time around it’s the daughters of Bill and Ted, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) who end up zipping through time and “collecting” inspirational musicians from throughout history, after they convince Kelly (Kristen Schall) to let the, take her time-pod. They encounter Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft), Jimmy Hendrix (DazMann Still), Mozart (Daniel Dorr), Ling Lun (Sharon Gee), and Grom (Patty Anne Miller). But even with such talent the problem of what they’ll play is still the big question.

A story wouldn’t be a story without tension and problems that need to be resolved. There’s plenty of them here, and most make for some hilarious and outrageous fun. Turns out that Bill and Ted (and their daughters) need to save all reality as it exists. They only have a few hours until it’s too late.  Along the way, they meet many versions of themselves in the future, have a run-in with Dave Grohl, and are also pursued by a robot from the future (Anthony Carrigan) sent by Rufus’ wife (Kelly’s mother too) The Great Leader (Holland Taylor) to kill them, as she has lost faith in Bill and Ted. However, Kelly (Kristen Schall) hasn’t, hence why she assists “B” (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and “T” (Samara Weaving) in their mission and also tries to convince her mother that she shouldn’t lose faith.

Just when we think things are all going to be tickety-boo another problem occurs. Bill and Ted have fallen out with Death (William Sadler), and haven’t made up yet; in fact, they haven’t spoken since the band split and Death went solo. Again, B & T step in and help. With the clock ticking that difficult question is eventually answered as the conclusion plays out and once more the power of music prevails and reminds everyone of its abilities to unite.

You don’t go to see a movie like this to hope you’re going to witness the finest piece of work ever written. If you do, you’re a joyless loser with a capital L. You go for fun and to either relive your youth or see what the heroes your parents have introduced you to get up to. The script balances silliness, an at times deliberately convoluted plot, and enough homage to the original movies, including a posthumous cameo (thanks to modern technology) from the legendary Rufus (George Carlin). Job well done.

 

The Acting

People change over time. Physically, emotionally and psychologically. But the best people keep the best bits of themselves. Winter and Reeves know that and despite it being close to thirty years since they last played the parts, both get into character wonderfully. It’s clear to see they’re enjoying themselves, too, and care nothing for the many dullards who have negatively reviewed their performances. It’s great that Reeves, despite his massive success in the film industry, slips right back to being Ted and reminds us why we fell in love with the hapless and often dim-witted dreamer. But without Bill, there is no Ted. That’s absolutely the message and the two of them sparkle as a double act and show that chemistry is indeed everything when you’re making a buddy adventure movie. Winter’s comedy work is great at times and critical to proceedings. Others who were with the first time round include Ted’s dad, Chief Logan (Hal Landon Junior), Missy (Amy Stoch), and of course Death (William Sadler). They too get back into the roles easily and bring great nostalgia.

The newcomers who have the bigger parts fit into things well too.  “B” (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and “T” (Samara Weaving) are convincing as the daughters of music lovers from the era where great music was abundant. Their reverence to Hendrix (DazMann Still) and co, looks genuine and they really convey how much their characters are affected by music. Whilst the band being put together don’t feature heavily in the film, they’re all well cast and play their parts well. The two potentially difficult roles were that of Kelly and “The Robot” (Anthony Carrigan), who does turn out to have a name. Perhaps this is especially true of Kelly (Kristen Schall), who is seen as the replacement of Rufus. Schall doesn’t try to live up to anything and brings the lightness that the role required. As for Carrigan, he brings humanity to his role and lots of humour.

 

CGI & Action

 

One of the challenges for this film was to make it look like a Bill and Ted movie. Neither of the previous two were big-budget affairs, and that’s a huge part of their charm. It was all about fun and theatricality. It’s all about creativity and doing silly things for the hell of it, because they’re funny. The costumes used for the other versions of Bill and Ted were amusing and well thought out. The prosthetics used to age them, as they see themselves in the future were also well planned. The point isn’t that they look perfect, it’s that they look “imagined” and that really comes through. This is also true of the Bill and Ted who are in prison, in 2030. The fact they’re ridiculously big is what is needed. It’s a comedy film primarily and therefore deliberately overegging the pudding is absolutely called for. It’s what people want to see, not super realistic predictions.

Whilst it may only have been a few moments, the hologram of Rufus was one of the most poignant parts of the film, without trying to be. It’s brilliant that he was able to be included and tribute paid to such an iconic character, who will always be the epitome of effortless cool. That was nicely tied in with the original booth, too, that looked more or less as it did in the last two films, albeit with more of a digital clarity to it as it travels through time.

 

Overall

Almost thirty years in the pipeline, with many abandoned scripts and various productions issues (as well as those stemming from the current pandemic), this film might not be what many fans wanted. Really though, they want a real-time machine and for the film to have been made only a few years after the original sequel. That’s the problem. It’s 2020 and that must be remembered. The film has to be assessed for what it is: a fun, lighthearted, silly in the best possible way adventure that has at the heart of it the same message that it always has. Peoples’ dreams matter. Music does have the power to bring people together, break down barriers, and build bridges. In some ways, it’s the only universal language we have. If nothing else this film must serve as a reminder of how much we’re missing live music and how vital it is to the very experience of living, for so many musicians and music lovers.

The soundtrack wasn’t what it could have been, which was the only real disappointment. that said, maybe it’s just another reminder of how much things have changed, and that the era of the previous two films meant rock music was still massively popular. The lack of hair-raising sounds on offer really shows the state of the current mainstream music market. Again, perhaps that was always going to be disappointing, simply because it wasn’t the soundtrack of the first two films. There may also have been difficulties with licensing agreements that weren’t apparent in the other films. Maybe that explains the rendition of songs that are in the public domain. It didn’t spoil things but just meant that the rock and roll feeling wasn’t there, throbbing all through the movie. Licensing issues and the way the music industry has changed might also account for the lack of a “big” song at the finale.

In the end, those who seriously rubbish this film probably take themselves far too seriously anyway. It didn’t need to be the epic final piece of the puzzle or attempt to surpass the other films. It’s daft and enjoyable, but with important messages about what matters most. Love, dreams, friendship, music for the sake of music. Ted’s dad’s realization that his son was happiest when playing the guitar was lovely. The almost moment that Ted considered selling his guitar, but didn’t, said everything necessary. Our dreams are precious and ours. That was further brought home in the final, post-credits scene as we see Bill and Ted for what will almost certainly be the last time. It’s never too late to be who you want to be. The lessons on offer are what to take away from this film (they always have been), and keep with you for the difficult times ahead. We’ll all need them for now and the next few years; oh and the final reminder: “be excellent to each other”, and “party on, dudes!”.

8.8
In Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music
  • Story
    8.9
  • Acting (Including Characters)
    9.2
  • CGI & Action
    8.8
  • Incidental Music & Overall
    8.4
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