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Bill & Ted Face the Music – Review

Have you been a little bummed out lately? Down in the dumps, maybe? Anxious? Worn out? Well, fear not, because everyone’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll idiots are back, and they are exactly what the world needs right now.

Yes, Bill S. Preston and Ted Theodore Logan have returned, dudes...

…and this time they’re… well, they’re old. And maybe for some folks that fact itself is depressing – but fear not! Bill & Ted Face the Music, the conclusion to a trilogy more beloved than it has any right to be, looks its aging heroes in the face and says: “Sure, but just because we’re pushing sixty doesn’t mean we can’t have a most excellent time!”

When we last saw Bill & Ted, way back in 1991, the heroes had just performed a totally righteous show and won the San Dimas Battle of the Bands, spreading peace and harmony throughout the world – all with Baby Bill and Baby Ted strapped to their backs!

Face the Music picks up where Bogus Journey ended – but, predictably, things have gone awry since Wyld Stallyns’ epic victory over De Nomolos and his evil robots.

The setup: Bill & Ted have been trying – and failing – to write the song (you know, the song) that will unite the world for over 25 years now.

Wyld Stallyns has fallen apart since losing (and suing!) its legendary bass player. And now, with their epic destiny unfulfilled, the universe is unraveling. Time is folding in on itself! Plus, their wives want to go to couples’ therapy! What will our loveable dumbasses do?!

Luckily, Bill & Ted aren’t facing this bogus nightmare alone. This time, they have not only their medieval wives by their sides, but also their daughters. Yes, that’s right, daughters – those babies strapped to their backs at the end of Bogus Journey were girls, and they’ve grown up into perfect 20-something clones of their clueless fathers!

I didn’t know that I needed gender-swapped Bill & Ted, but I did, and now that I have them, I am so very happy.

And it’s not just Bill & Ted’s kids making an appearance in Face the Music – Rufus’s daughter (Kelly, played by the ingenious Kristen Schall) is here too, ready to help Wyld Stallyns succeed no matter what her uptight mom has to say about it!

(For the die-hard B&T fans, the rest of the Logan and Preston families get some screen time, too – including the poor dads, along with everyone’s favorite step-mom Missy, who is now married to Ted’s younger brother. Get it, Missy! May your slutty sun never set!)

Dedicated to upholding her father’s legacy, Kelly informs Bill & Ted that their song – the song – is about more than just world peace.

It turns out there’s a bit more to this prophecy: “A song created by Preston & Logan, performed by everyone in the band, will save reality as we know it and unite humanity across all time.”

Oh, shit! Saving reality was not part of the original deal! But wait, there’s an additional catch: Many on The Council (headed by Kelly’s mom, uh-oh!) believe that it’s actually Bill & Ted’s deaths that will save reality. And they’ve built a discount-terminator cyborg to do the job! So not heinous!

The majority of Face the Music is split between two parallel storylines: One where Bill & Ted Sr. travel into the future evading the killer robot and trying to steal the reality-saving song from their future selves, and the other where Bill & Ted Jr (Billie & Thea) travel into the past recruiting famous musicians to join their dads’ epic band.

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter slip seamlessly back into their roles as the Wyld Stallyns front-men.

Bill & Ted are just as delightfully dumb and endearing as we remember – they’ve grown up, but they haven’t changed. Their journey in Face the Music is ridiculous (obviously, how could it not be), but it’s also a surprisingly thoughtful look at how we relate to ourselves as we age. Ted in particular has a difficult time with himself:

“You’re a dick, Ted!” – Ted, to Ted

Relatable content.

The true stars of this movie, though, are the daughters: Billie and Thea, played by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine. It’s not often we see young women like these onscreen: Stoner-coded slackers who’d rather hang out in their parents’ garage listening to tunes than even think about getting a “real job.” Yet, they’re still very much the heroes. Compelled simply by their love for their dads and their obsession with musical quality, Billie & Thea travel from 1960s America to ancient China and beyond searching for the world’s most legendary musicians to join Wyld Stallyns.

Billie & Thea are the heart of this movie, and Samara and Brigette are excellent in their roles. Brigette does a fantastic job mimicking Keanu’s / Ted Sr.’s signature boxy body language and awkward walk. Every “dude” out of Samara’s mouth is perfectly pitched. The central appeal of their storyline, though, are their interactions with the musicians they recruit. For example: When their first attempt to enlist Jimmie Hendrix results in an outright rejection, do they give up? Of course not! They go scoop up Louis Armstrong, bring him back to Jimmie, and basically say “How ya like us now?!” Now that’s smart writing.  

If there’s one thing about Face the Music that raises it a level above its predecessors, it’s the genuine respect paid to music itself.

Billie and Thea are more musically educated than their dads ever were, and their storyline reflects a real love of music and music history that was missing from both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey. The inclusion of Armstrong, Hendrix, and eventually Kid Cudi in their list of essential musical icons is an explicit nod to the fact that Black people built modern music. Plus, watching history’s greatest musicians meet and blow each other’s minds is possibly the most charming part of this very charming movie. Mozart is a Hendrix fanboy? Damn skippy he is.

But – you may be asking yourself – what about the wives? Weren’t Joanna and Elizabeth around here somewhere too? Well, yes and no. The wives’ storyline is the one piece of this film that misses the mark a bit. After their failed foray into couples’ therapy, Joanna and Elizabeth spend most of the movie traveling through time off-screen looking for a happy alternative future with Bill and Ted. When they return to the present stating that, “We realized we’re happiest in this reality,” viewers might be left wondering, “Wait, are they settling?” This half-hearted conclusion is awkward given the earnest cleverness of the rest of the script.

While the wives’ story may conclude on a questionable note, Face the Music itself has a climax so unexpectedly touching that you can’t help but wonder if Keanu and Alex set out intentionally to make their audience cry like little babies.

After a series of unfortunate events, Billie & Thea, along with the musicians they’ve recruited, end up in Hell, where they reunite with Bill & Ted Sr. and team up to reenlist the final member of the band. Yes, Death is back, baby, and he’s still the baddest bassist in the universe!

With the original band back together, the crew returns to present-day San Dimas – where reality is collapsing and Bill & Ted have mere minutes to write and perform the song that will save all of time and space! Trapped in the middle of history’s most epic traffic jam, and without a single clue what their reality-saving song actually sounds like, how can our heroes possibly pull this off?!

Dudes, this climax has everything: Father-daughter feels. Husband-wife feels. Friend feels. Music feels. World peace feels!

Maybe it’s simply that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic that’s prevented us from gathering in crowds for six months now, but holy hell is this climax emotional. The sight of a band playing together in a huge crowd in the middle of a highway, uniting all of time and space in song, is… pretty damn intense.

I am now someone who has cried full-on real tears over Bill & Ted, and that would be embarrassing if it weren’t so warranted.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is a movie driven by something we haven’t seen a lot of in pop culture lately: Hope. This movie is optimistic. It is confident that a brighter future exists. And that’s extremely powerful.

Thea sums it up best with her closing voiceover: “It wasn’t so much the song that made the difference. It was everyone playing it together. And it worked.”

The message is clear: Rock ‘n’ roll might not save the world, but love sure as hell will.

People, this is the feel-good movie of the year, hands down, no questions asked. A genuinely hopeful, heartfelt film in a time of apocalyptic cynicism. Thank you, Keanu Reaves and Alex Winter, for giving us exactly what we need right now.

Now go forth, reader dudes, and be excellent to each other.

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