It took 29 years to happen but William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are back on the big screen. Those loveable idiot slackers whose music created a Utopian society in the future, are now happily married, middle aged men, living next door to each other in San Dimas, California. They’re still performing together as Wyld Stallyn but their gigs these days seem to only take place at divey restaurants and bars in towns that are best bypassed on the way to anywhere else. Sadly, they still haven’t written that one song that will unite the universe but that hasn’t been a problem… until now.
In BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC, the boys/men are paid a visit from Kelly (Kristen Schaal, MY SPY; TOY STORY 4), Rufus’ (the late George Carlin) daughter, an emissary from the future who informs them that they need to speak with The Great Leader (Holland Taylor, TV’s TWO AND HALF MEN, stepping in for Clarence Clemons, who passed away in 2011), who also happens to be her mother. She whisks them away in her egg-shaped pod to Mom where they learn that if they don’t come up with that song in the next 77 minutes, the universe will cease to exist. The boys/men are up for the challenge, and they hastily craft a plan that takes them travelling through time again. Meanwhile, their daughters, Theodora “Thea” Preston (Samara Weaving, READY OR NOT; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI) and Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine, BOMBSHELL; THE GLASS CASTLE; DOWNSIZING; IRRATIONAL MAN), come up with a time-travelling plan of their own but theirs ultimately lands them in hell where the Grim Reaper (William Sadler, TV’s ROSWELL) is hanging out. Bill & Ted must then go to hell, rescue their daughters, reconcile with Death, and come up with that song before time and space collapse in on itself.
I don’t think anyone ever said that the first two BILL & TED films are high art. They are dumb but wacky fun. They are stoner films without the grass. (I’ll bet they’re a helluva lot funnier to watch if you’re stoned.) BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is no different. This fan service sequel, which was nearly ten years in the making, is also written by franchise creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. While the original film in the series (BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE) was rough around the edges at best, often looking like many of the scenes were done in one take, at least FTM has a coherent storyline and Oscar®-winning director Dean Parisot (GALAXY QUEST) keeps it fairly well paced. It’s still not up there with WAYNE’S WORLD (simply because Winter and Reeves don’t have the comedic chops that Mike Myers and Dana Carvey do) but you will find yourself chuckling a few times regardless. Having the 77 minutes play out in near-real time was a nice touch.
The production team was able to bring back some of the original cast members including Amy Stoch, who first played Bill’s and then Ted’s stepmom, Missy; Hal Landon Jr., who plays Ted’s dad; and William Sadler, who really is the film’s bright spot as the personification of Death. Wrinkles aside, Winter still looks and sounds like the old Bill. Reeves, however, seems to have lost his youthful Valley Boy looks and voice, instead looking and sounding like he could be John Wick’s deadbeat brother from the suburbs. Both Weaving and Lundy-Paine make for amusing female slackers but we’ve seen Weaving do far better work than this. There have been hints that a fourth film may be made involving Thea & Billie but neither character is compelling enough to warrant it. That being said, Hollywood is making MY SPY 2 so anything is possible.
If you’ve never seen a BILL & TED film, FTM isn’t going to turn you into a believer. But if you’re already a fan, FTM makes for a fitting end to a beloved and enduring franchise.
Be sure to watch all the way to the end of the credits for a special scene.
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is available now at the not so excellent price of US$20 to rent (or US$25 to buy) on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and Google Play. Party on, dudes!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, September 11th, 8:30 am HK time!
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