When Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson first pitched their script for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1987, they had difficulty finding a studio that would take a chance on such a silly, over-the-top idea. With 31 years of hindsight, those studios might have jumped at the opportunity. Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and “Ted” Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) quickly became icons and have only grown in popularity due to nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s. After living through the meat grinder of America in 2020, Bill and Ted’s positive attitude about any situation they find themselves in is refreshing. Whether they are trying to pass high school history, stopping evil robots, or saving reality, no obstacle can keep them down. The franchise has produced two T.V. shows, comics, video games, a musical, and everyone’s favorite… Bill and Ted’s Most Atypical Movie Cards and now Bill and Ted Face the Music. Bill and Ted is a franchise, dudes.
How many of us have quoted these movies with our bros? How many have triumphantly played air guitar in tribute to them? How many have been waiting expectantly for the finale to be released? I was so eager to see how the saga came to a close ever since the movie started production. After all this anticipation, I am happy to report that Bill and Ted Face the Music is a most bodacious sequel that lives up to the legacy of its excellent prequels.
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter have effortless chemistry as Ted and Bill (it feels kind of weird writing it like that…) whenever they are on-screen, but also bring a gruff edge to their performance when they play progressively more jaded versions of themselves. The script gives both of them some hilarious lines as they misunderstand their wives, themselves, and their mission. Both bring so much physical comedy to their scenes while never feeling too jarring. They also model a relationship that is not often seen in film, a supportive, loving friendship between men. Their work together is joyous to watch and cements them in my mind as one of the great cinematic duos.
One issue the film faces head on is how to retcon the ending of the previous movie, where Bill and Ted seemingly wrote the song to save humanity. Rather than ignoring that, the opening scenes focus on how far Bill and Ted have gone to embrace their destiny. As Bill and Ted fumble around with bizarre instruments and begin throat singing at a wedding reception, we are shown all the years of dead ends they’ve faced and what brought them to this moment rather than it being limited to exposition.
Of course, Bill and Ted have also been raising their two daughters to be versions of themselves from their prime. Once they begin their mission to make the best band of all time, their true strengths are revealed. Their years of listening to music and creating their own inspire a passion in every historical figure they meet, even Death himself! Samara Weaving and Bridgette Lundy-Paine are clearly having a great time with their roles and I was too as I watched them go further into the past while their fathers traveled to the future.
The two main stories complement each other as refined and trimmed down versions of the previous films in the series. While Billie and Thea’s adventure recalls the quest to find historical figures in the first movie, Bill and Ted’s journey more closely resembles the second film where they faced evil versions of themselves. The writers enjoyed building on the legacy they created while not relying on nostalgic references like other big franchise movies. These cinematic parallels also emphasize the theme of passing the torch, as Bill and Ted realize their destiny was fulfilled by their daughters, the true main characters. These two plotlines converge as all of time begins to converge as well, with a final scene of truly epic proportions.
While many smaller roles get terrific comedic bits to chew on (the marriage counselor fleeing her office, Louis Armstrong being transfixed by a smartphone), some feel under-utilized or mishandled. Dennis, the Bill and Ted Universe’s Terminator, started to grate on my nerves in the final act. His addition felt unnecessary in a group filled with great comedic roles and few straight men. Kid Cudi, while hilarious in parts, only seemed to have one joke and the reveal that he knew about Station, the extremely smart aliens from the second film, was confusing in a way none of the other references were. My issues with Dennis and Kid Cudi are relatively minor compared to one missed opportunity I noticed. During the first act of the movie, I was excited to see the story of the princesses after their bizarre double date/couples therapy appointment, but instead they are mostly ignored. The intriguing setup left me a bit disappointed. Their family members all have strong character arcs while they are mostly absent.
Overall, the stories of Bill and Ted, and Billie and Thea were so strong that my minor issues with the film didn’t detract from my enjoyment. Bill and Ted Face the Music is a joyous finale to one of my favorite comedy series of all time and one I hope to revisit soon.