It’s funny how some films can worm their way in to cult classic status. Even by the standards of when they were released, neither 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure nor 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey were big hits, yet they live on in myriad ways. That will only increase with a third film 30 years in the making, Bill & Ted Face the Music.
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have somehow still not written the song that will unite the world despite the prophecy at the center of the first two films. In fact, they’ve gone in the opposite direction, experimenting with music so bizarre that not even their friends and family can stand it. Everyone, that is, except for their devoted daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving).
And so the elders to which Rufus (George Carlin, who appears in archival footage) brought them many years ago set one final deadline for them to write the song. Bill and Ted, being the slackers they are, decide to use the time machine phone booth to try to steal the song from their future selves who will, presumably, have already written it. Needless to say, things don’t exactly go swimmingly, and Billie and Thea have to come to the rescue.
Written by original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and directed by Dean Parisot, the film doesn’t try too hard to reinvent the wheel, to its own detriment. Despite being three decades older, neither Bill nor Ted has changed very much, which doesn’t make much sense. Sure, you want to give fans callbacks to the first two films, but having two men in their fifties without any maturity whatsoever doesn’t play very well.
Likewise, if they wanted to pass off the reins to a new generation, they should have invested more in the lives of the daughters. As portrayed, they’re merely Bill and Ted clones, and neither Lundy-Paine nor Weaving does a particularly good job at imitating their “fathers.” Their mission also never gels, as, similar to the first film, they gather historical figures, but in much less entertaining fashion.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its moments. As Bill and Ted visit various versions of their future selves, their different appearances are consistently humorous, especially a version of them as jacked-up prisoners. A vengeful robot played Anthony Carrigan (who plays NoHo Hank on HBO’s Barry) is an inspired new character. And bringing back original actors like Amy Stoch as Missy, Hal Landon, Jr. as Chief Logan, and especially William Sadler as Death makes for some extra fun.
Two roles that are recast — Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays) — stand out for two reasons. The roles are now being played by much younger actors, which is noticeable but also kind of funny, since the roles were recast in Bogus Journey, as well. But both Hayes and Mays are talented comic actors, and they bring something extra to what amounted to throwaway roles in the first two films.
Unfortunately, Reeves and Winter don’t carry the film in the way they once did. It’s not that either is bad, but they just don’t hold your attention very well. It doesn’t affect their acting ability, but both have a vaguely plastic appearance that proves to be distracting throughout.
Bill & Ted Face the Music isn’t a disaster, but there’s nothing about it that justifies returning to the property after so many years. The dudes still love to party, but their excellence left them long ago.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is in select theaters and is also available on VOD/streaming platforms.