Movie Review: ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’
Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Kid Cudi
Plot: Having not yet recorded the song that saves the world, Bill and Ted are facing a tight deadline to deliver the goods. They set out to get the song from their future selves, while their daughters Billie and Thea go back in time to assemble a supergroup band of historical figures.
Review: You have to have a good reason to make a sequel. Sometimes it’s for money or nostalgia, and that’s fine, but ideally it’ll be because there’s more story that needs to be told. First we saw Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) travelling through time to pass history class and avoid being separated. Then they escaped the afterlife to put together their band and perform their first world changing concert. We ended the adventure with Bill and Ted changing setting the world on track for a utopia future. It’s a great ending. What else in this story needs to be told?
Well, initially we have to walk things back. At the end of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey we were treated to a montage of Wild Stallyns advancing technology, ending war and increasing global resources. Apparently that didn’t happen, they had a smash hit and then the band broke up and their career tanked. It feels like an artificial way to get a sequel happening, but if they’re going to deliver another whacky, fun adventure then we can excuse that.
Well…it’s ok. There are a few chuckles to be had along the way and the routine between Winter and Reeves is just as fun as it was when I was 10 years old. The problem is that there’s no clear conflict and a plethora of subplots that don’t contribute to the overall story.
Bill and Ted have gone from rock stars to a suburban garage band, and their wives Elizabeth and Joanna (Hayes and Mays) are getting fed up with them. The only people who still believe in them are their daughters Billie and Thea (Lundy-Paine and Weaving), but even Ted is beginning to have his doubts. Meanwhile, reality and time is beginning to fold in on itself, so Rufus’ daughter Kelly (Schaal) arrives from the future to deliver an ultimatum. Bill and Ted have 77 minutes to write their world uniting song or the world ends. Unable to come up with anything, they hijack their old time-travelling phone booth to steal the song from themselves in the future.
While Bill and Ted are meeting various versions of themselves in the future in a desperate attempt to find the song, their daughters set out on their own adventure. They want to assemble a band to play with Wild Stallyns, so they go backwards in time to recruit Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Mozart and others. Eventually they all unite and head through Hell searching for the location they are destined to perform the song in to save the world.
The idea of time going wonky is not well explained. It’s mostly set-up in a prologue voice-over, which already makes the audience feel disconnected from the threat, and there’s no logic to it. People and landmarks are popping into other points of history, but rather than being linked to any one thing it’s because Bill and Ted travelling through time that one time. It’s skimmed over just to get the movie going, and we never feel the stakes are particularly high. They keep talking about different timelines and parallel universes, and visiting different versions of the pair sounds like a fun concept that builds on the previous films, but it never really happens.
We keep cutting away to Billie and Thea rounding up bandmates. The actors they have playing some of the historical figures are absolutely on point and fun to watch, but the daughters don’t have their own characters. They’re just Bill and Ted, but younger. If they made this the focal point of the movie it could have been a Blues Brothers-esque getting-the-band-back-together romp. We don’t even get the historical figures running amok in the present day so it mostly feels like padding.
Then there are the sub-plots that don’t go anyway. The Princesses go on their own time travelling journey with older versions of themselves, but we never see this happening and it doesn’t contribute to the plot. There’s also an autistic robot sent from the future to kill Bill and Ted, but it doesn’t go anyway.
What does work is when the movie directly links back to the originals. We see Missy and Ted’s father return complete with the original actors reprising the roles, which is fun continuation of the hot-stepmom gag. William Sadler also returns as Death, bitter about how the band fell about.
Following the titular duo is when we’re having the most fun. It feels like they never stopped playing these roles, and they have all manner of encounters with future versions of themselves. British rockstar, muscle-bound prisoners, aged and dying versions give us some of the best moments. It also gives us the feeling this was original a Spider-Verse type story in an earlier draft.
This isn’t a bad film. It’s amusing enough. But it never feels like it adds another to the classic comedies. There’s a nice message at the core, but it’s not a movie we needed.
Rating: FIVE out of TEN