Once told they’d save the universe during a time-traveling adventure, two would-be rockers from San Dimas, California find themselves as middle-aged dads still trying to crank out a hit song and fulfill their destiny.
I’ve been waiting for Bill & Ted 3 for 29 years and I can tell you now it didn’t let me down. I was expecting a three-star movie and that’s exactly what I got.
Bill And Ted Face The Music is amusing, amiable, and approaching TENET levels of incomprehensibility regarding both time travel and Missy’s current relationship status to most of the returning characters – now that she’s marrying Deacon, Ted’s little brother, having previously been married to both Bill and Ted’s dads.
Did we need a third Bill & Ted instalment? Personally I felt the song to unite humanity had finally been written when I first heard Reach by S Club 7 – but it’s still always lovely to give people, even pretend ones, a decent send-off. They may be figments of Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson’s imaginations but I still tend to think of Bill S. Preston Esq and Ted “Theodore” Logan aimlessly drifting through time and space since the mid-90s, waiting for a proper finale.
Actually they’ve been drifting through San Dimas, with no proper jobs, since their meteoric music career suddenly burnt up. The film starts with an enjoyable race through their career via CD covers, musical differences and relaunches, though they’ve ended up playing for a handful of people mostly there for Taco Night.
Their daughters are following the same pattern, living at home and unemployed, at 24. Only the princesses, with their Middle Ages and middled-aged commitment to boring, regular work, have kept roofs over the two families’ heads.
While this is a bit of a retread though time and space, it’s Bill’s daughter Thea (Samara Weaving) and Ted’s daughter Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) who decide to bring back famous musical figures from the past – plus, this time, figures from the past who should be more famous than they are. So as well as Mozart (Daniel Dorr), Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still) and Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft) we also meet Chinese flautist Ling Lun (Sharon Gee), and a (fictional) drummer from prehistoric times called Grom (Patty Anne Miller).
Kelly (Kristen Schaal), daughter of the late Rufus and the current Great Leader (is nepotism still a thing in 2720 San Dimas?) is now in charge of ensuring Bill and Ted write the song to unite humanity and save reality, which is collapsing in on itself and depositing famous figures in all manner of places.
They have 77 minutes, and as we know from the previous instalments time keeps ticking at the same speed, even as you go to the past or future. If the song isn’t performed at 7.17pm at MP46, we’re all doomed.
Daughter and mum don’t see eye to eye though, and it turns out some bigwigs from 2720 have interpreted the prophecy very differently to Rufus. Instead of a song, it is Bill and Ted’s deaths that will lead to the new epoch.
With that in mind, and with Bill and Ted not producing much worth singing about, The Great Leader (Holland Taylor) adopts a belt-and-braces approach: sending killer robot Dennis Caleb McCoy (an adorably murderous Anthony Carrigan) to go back in time and kill them.
It’s quite the chase, as Bill and Ted are also travelling in smallish increments into their own futures, meeting themselves, to steal the already-written song; Billie and Thea are collecting musicians in Kelly’s time travel egg; and even princesses Liz (Erinn Hayes) and Jo (Jayma Mays) are careering round different realities having been visited by their own future selves.
The mixing of old and new – from characters to the re-used storyline – does work well, though it limits where this instalment can go and the heights it can reach.
Death is back, having previously been ejected from the Wyld Stallyns for his overlong bass solos. Of the new characters, Dennis, the killer robot with feelings, is a blast, and it’s good to know AI don’t get it all their own way and can end up in Hell. I hope he met Alexa there. Kid Cudi, playing a version of himself, turns out to be a time and relativity whizz.
Billie and Thea are fine though Lundy-Paine comes across as overly Ted-like. It’s a tough line to tread though, considering Ted has always been the less bright but brighter-burning of the two dads. (There is talk of another film, following Billie and Thea. It’ll be interesting to see how the characters grow up and away from their fathers.)
Keanu Reeves has snapped back into Ted’s gangly persona, whose limbs always seem just too long for him to control, though at times he’s overly mannered.
His and Alex Winter’s real life friendship has always provided the heartbeat of the franchise though it inevitably merges into their characters’ relationship too. The final reveal is particularly sweet as Bill and Ted work something out at at the same time rather than Ted asking Bill and Bill coming up with an answer.
So… is it funny? Like me when I’m so busy I just keep re-sharing Facebook Memories rather than writing anything new, there’s a sense that they’ve run out of ideas. Luckily, it was a very good original idea.
Face The Music is a marshmallow movie: warm and cosy with some terrific moments from future prisoners Bill and Ted, and future knights Sir Bill and Sir Ted. The stand-out is Jillian Bell’s relationship counsellor though – as her character tries to cope with both couples turning up for therapy together Bell is pitch perfect, a gently-raised eyebrow in human form.
I’m sure plenty of people born after Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey will enjoy Face The Music, though I expect most of those partying on while watching will be of an age where more than two drinks will leave them with a three-day hangover.
This is about friendship, and what we can achieve when we work together – the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts, whether Bill and Ted, their friends and families, or all of Creation. It’s also reassuringly realistic about our trajectories: that you may not finally understand yourself until middle age, and that continuous reinvention doesn’t necessarily mean happiness.
Though in a typically good-natured Bill & Ted flourish, the ending signals this isn’t just nostalgia but also about passing on the baton – letting our kids step up and take the mic.
Bill & Ted Face The Music is available on digital and in selected cinemas in the US and in UK cinemas.