By Jason Delgado
How does one recapture the magic of the past? Charles Barkley likes to say that “time is undefeated.” Anyone expecting a new Bill & Ted to be as good as the lightning in a bottle, classic comedy film Excellent Adventure, is probably the same kind of person who thought Wizard’s era Michael Jordan would be no different than Bull’s Jordan. Old man MJ was still an all-star; he just wasn’t dominating the league anymore, and you could say the same for Bill and Ted.
It’s a breath of fresh air just to see Bill and Ted back in this day and age. The popular line, “Be excellent to each other!” is a timeless credo to life, and more relevant now than ever. Look at the problems that hate is causing in the world, and has caused throughout history, and how love and kindness has the opposite effect. It’s so simple, yet profound, much like the song “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles.
It’s a miracle that there is even a third film with the original actors, after a long and bumpy road that almost led to a dreaded reboot with new actors, as detailed in my interview with co-writer Ed Solomon here.
In the Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey blu-ray audio commentary, the aforementioned Ed Solomon, along with co-writer and co-creator of Bill and Ted, Chris Matheson, talked about how they felt that particular movie was good for the first two-thirds of it, but fell apart in the final act. I felt the inverse for Face the Music. I love the finale of the film, as a fitting tribute to the characters and the audience, but the rest of the movie felt a bit lacking comparatively.
I was expecting more laughs, and there are a few, such as the wedding scene early on, where Bill and Ted play some interesting music to say the least, but my expectations were admittedly sky high after anxiously awaiting another sequel for almost thirty years.
The performance of Keanu Reeves as Ted is different from the other films in the series. I read that this acting choice was a conscious decision by both Keanu and the director Dean Parisor (Galaxy Quest), to show a more mature version of the character, which is understandable, but it threw me off a bit nonetheless.
I’m normally a huge fan of Reeves’ work, having said in my John Wick 3 review that “It’s crazy to think about how Keanu keeps reinventing himself, from surfer/former football hero Johnny Utah in Point Break, to the clean cut cop in Speed, to Neo, the slo-mo bullet dodging savior of the human race, in the Matrix, to now the black suit wearing, world’s greatest assassin John Wick, all while never seeming to grow old.” Keanu fans should definitely check out Always Be My Maybe on Netflix, for a hilarious cameo send-up of a conceited version of his real life self. All of the above may make it difficult for myself, as well as the audience to see the superstar thespian as the loveable and aloof Labrador Retriever-like character that he played so early on in his career.
As for the other half of the dynamic duo, Alex Winter is spot on in his enthusiastic portrayal of Bill. Winter hasn’t been in front of the camera in a big role like this for quite some time (which doesn’t show in Face the Music), but behind the camera he’s been prolific in recent years. Winter is a fantastic documentary director, with the illuminating Showbiz Kids on HBO being his most recent work. Winter, William Sadler as Death, Hal Landon Jr. as Ted’s dad, and Amy Stoch as Missy are the highlights for me as far as returning actors in this film, but with the latter three doing so on limited screen time.
My biggest complaint about this film, other than the lack of consistent laughs, is that it feels like a rehash of moments from the first two films (collecting famous historical dudes throughout time, going back to hell, and so on), with A Christmas Carol mixed in. Bogus Journey, for all its faults, was at least highly original and imaginative for a sequel. There are some fun and different moments, such as the prison sequence, but I found myself craving more of that uniqueness, and less nostalgia, which is a fine line for sequels to walk, particularly after so much time has passed between films.
Samara Weaving as Theodora and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Billie do a fine job of playing the daughters of Bill and Ted by taking some of the mannerisms of Keanu and Alex and adding their own spin. Anthony Carrigan is a fantastic actor in the show Barry, but his character in Face the Music feels like a retread of Death, alternating between playing it serious and then silly. Kristen Schaal is an excellent addition to the cast as Rufus’s daughter Kelly; she’s a character whom I feel would have benefited from more time on screen.
I read that the shooting time and budget for the movie was slashed before filming, which is a shame for so many fans like me who have been waiting for this film for so long. Solomon said in a CNET interview, “We had so little money to make this movie and so little time that we used every part of the buffalo, so to speak. There are some script scenes we had to cut due to budget. Once the movie comes out, Chris and I might release some of the scenes we thought were fun or sweet that didn’t get in the movie.”
Despite all of the issues I mentioned, overall I still enjoyed Bill and Ted Face the Music for the light and fun distraction that it is. The ending literally rocks. We could all use some joy right now, and you can’t help but look at these long lost friends, and smile. I give Bill and Ted Face the Music three out of five hot sauce packets. Party on dudes!
Be sure to keep watching until the end of the credits, like with Marvel, for a special bonus scene!