Review: Bill and Ted Face the Music

Year: 2020
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving

By Caelyn O’Reilly

EXCELLENT!!! *air guitars* 

“Bill and Ted Face the Music” is a joyous revival that brings the franchise back to life and concludes it in heart-warming fashion. Using the two decades since the first pair of films to its advantage, “Face the Music” crafts a narrative that retains the infectious positivity and unique kitschiness of its predecessors while updating the material for a modern audience. 

The “Bill and Ted” movies have always had a unique aesthetic, at least to my youthful eyes. Much like their narratives it’s a combination of grounded comedy and earnest, mid-budget sci-fi/fantasy. Thankfully, even with the shiny new toy that is photorealistic CGI, this latest entry retains that wonderful feeling. The new technology is used to add vibrancy and colour without making it look like every other CG-ladened sci-fi movie of the past five years. 

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter slip right back into their roles with ease. Their aspirational goofiness and undying optimism radiate off the screen. They haven’t changed much over the decades, but these are characters that don’t really need to change. They’re like The Joker or Captain Jack Sparrow, they’re so fully formed, without need for development or alteration. They embody many of the stereotypical “slacker” characteristics but they do anything but slack. They’re highly motivated and understanding, keenly aware of their problems and immediately doing their best to fix them in their own unique ways. They’re just two sweet boys who want to make the world a better place, and I love them. 

Copyright: Dugan Entertainment, TinRes Entertainment, Dial 9, Hammerstone Studios, Lakeview Entertainment 

A few original cast members return for this entry, including the marriage-swapping Missy (Amy Stoch), Ted’s dad Chief Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) and William Sadler’s iconic turn as Death himself. Stoch unfortunately doesn’t get much time on-screen, though that’s a recurring feature of this series. Landon Jr. also doesn’t get all that much to do but does get one great scene where he recognises the reality of all of Bill and Ted’s wacky adventures. The real returning star in the supporting cast is William Sadler, whose “Seventh Seal” homage performance of The Grim Reaper was easily the height of “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”. He remains a scene stealer here, though he doesn’t show up until late in the film.  He also manages a genuinely emotional scene, which is probably hard when you’re caked in makeup and carrying a scythe.

“The most important additions to the cast though are Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Bill and Ted’s daughters, Billie and Thea.”

Sadly, not every returning character is played by their original actor. Joanna and Elizabeth – medieval princesses and wives of Bill and Ted – have been recast. Jayma Mays and Errin Hayes play their parts well but they are a couple of the characters that get sidelined by the sheer size of the cast in this film. They get a few funny reactions to the jokes of others, but few real jokes of their own. They do provide a welcome emotional presence in the climax but most of their story takes place off-screen.  

Copyright: Dugan Entertainment, TinRes Entertainment, Dial 9, Hammerstone Studios, Lakeview Entertainment 

Part of the reason for that sidelining may come from the plethora of new cast members that need to find time to shine in the film’s 93 minute run time. Like the original, there’s a group of historical figures being brought together. They feature less prominently in this film but Jeremiah Craft’s Louis Armstrong and DazMann Still’s Jimi Hendrix are absolute standouts who nail their roles and get some adorable interactions with each other and the rest of the cast. Rapper Kid Cudi also joins the group (playing himself) and gets some great comedy technobabble to play with. From the future side of things there’s Kristen Schall as Kelly, daughter of George Carlin’s Rufus and filling in for him in this film, she’s suitably exasperated by the ridiculous situation and has that amusingly unique delivery that Schall brings to all her performances. Another standout is the neurotic killer robot Dennis played by Anthony Carrigan in a really excellent combination of costuming and makeup. Every new addition to the cast fits perfectly into the wacky universe this franchise has built up. 

The most important additions to the cast though are Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Bill and Ted’s daughters, Billie and Thea (who are being read by some as transgender, and I’ll happily join them). They’re much like Bill and Ted but quirkier and with much better taste in fashion.  

Why they’re great 

Sorry to spend so much time discussing the cast, but there are quite a lot of them and the film is heavily character-based. But of course, there’s more than that. There’s the humour for instance. 

Well, I guess the performances are a big part of that… dangit. 

Copyright: Dugan Entertainment, TinRes Entertainment, Dial 9, Hammerstone Studios, Lakeview Entertainment 

In all seriousness the film’s humour is heavily character-based. Most of the humour comes from simply placing their absurd characters next to each other and letting the natural conflict that arises guide the comedy. It had me frequently giggling and engaging in what can only be described as “autistic flails of joy”. There are plenty more time travel antics this time as Bill and Ted get to meet various future versions of themselves (which only gives Reeves and Winter even more opportunities to chew scenery, to my delight). 

“Bill and Ted: Face the Music” is a joyous and earnest celebration of life that’s also a silly fun sci-fi comedy romp.”

This series has never cared that much about narrative and theme (to their benefit, and I mean that genuinely) but this entry does go a bit further on that front. There are some issues, the expansive cast and intercut narratives can make it feel overstuffed. But the story hits some genuinely heartfelt beats, particularly in the ending. Like many late entries into franchises in recent years, it leans heavily into themes of moving on in life and passing the torch. This has become a surprisingly common theme in franchise family films in the past couple of years (“Toy Story 4”, “Cars 3”, “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse”, “Avengers Endgame”, etc.). While it may be overused, “Face the Music” still manages to hit the feels with its use. 

I’m worried I may have undersold this movie so let me say this emphatically. “Bill and Ted: Face the Music” is a joyous and earnest celebration of life that’s also a silly fun sci-fi comedy romp. I would highly recommend it alongside both previous films (though quick warning, there is a homophobic slur in the first film and two in the second, it sucks). But this third film is just pure and wholesome, and don’t we all need that right now? 

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