“Bill, we’ve spend our whole life trying to unite the world, and I’m tired of doing it.”
Justin’s rating: Let’s reach out and touch someone
Justin’s review: There are few movies that encapsulate my personal childhood than Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I loved its doofy charm, its time traveling exploits, and its bizarre cast of characters — most significantly San Dimas’ Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan. I loved the music and the montages, the over-the-top ending and the joyful way that two idiots used time to their own advantage. And while I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at first, it’s a movie that’s really grown on me over the years thanks to William Sadler’s portrayal of Death and the courage it had to strike a different path than the first movie.
But now, nearly 30 years after the second movie, we’re entering the final act of this oddball trilogy — a final act that wasn’t, strictly speaking, necessary. Was there really such a pent-up demand for two men in their 50s to reprise the roles that made them cult legends decades ago? I guess we’re in this era where everyone and their studio mother is greenlighting sequels and reboots to franchises that have long since gone dormant.
Yet this kind of works in a meta sense for Bill and Ted Face the Music, because having two middle-aged actors return to the films that they enjoyed doing together a long time ago is a lot like middle-aged anyones getting the old band back together, going to high school reunions, or reviving some dorky movie review blog that they originally started in their early 20s. If you’re not dead yet, why not? Why not sally forth and have a good time with a total vanity project?
In that spirit, Bill and Ted 3 leans into the duo’s adult life, showing them as never having established their great legacy (despite the ending of Bogus Journey), which was to unite the world in peace through one amazing song. Contacted once more by the future, Bill and Ted are told that reality is going to collapse in a little over an hour if they don’t make it happen. Without a clue as to how to make this be-all, end-all tune, they start traveling into their personal futures to see if they can rip off the song from themselves.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t go that well. Their future selves are falling apart from bad choices and time stream meddling, and Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves appear in a succession of bizarre getups to show their ride down to rock bottom.
But while they’re doing this, their two daughters — Billie and Thea — are doing some time traveling of their own in an attempt to form a band of most excellent performers to help their dads out. So we get this dual storyline that is a little funnier on the Bill and Ted side but a lot more well-paced on the girls’ side. The girls’ trip reminded me a lot of Excellent Adventure’s history report round-up, although the band members aren’t given room to develop personalities and endear themselves to us as Socrates, Billy the Kid, and Joan of Arc once did. It’s kind of telling that the funniest side character is an insecure assassin robot named Dennis who gets some good laughs with the few lines he’s given.
Eventually, the trips converge in hell, where we finally get a reunion with Death, who’s on the outs with Wyld Stallyns and still cheating with games. It’s here that the old band literally gets back together for a final ride, and if that’s not a self-aware commentary, I don’t know what is.
So is Bill and Ted Face the Music good? I’ll say that it’s… OK. It’s not a worst-case disaster, but it’s not quite as good as I was hoping it would be either. The pacing seems off, for starters, lurching from scene to scene with different levels of intensity when the whole film should have been constantly ratcheting up the tension and stakes. Some of the jokes land, others don’t, and there are too many missed opportunities for more that aren’t taken. As I said, none of the historical figures really stand out in any way, and even Death is only shoved into the last 15 minutes or so.
Yet Winters and Reeves’ chemistry and mannerisms are shockingly still right up there, and we can coast a long way on the goodwill that the two send their fans. It’s obvious they’re having such a great time being in this movie and finally coming back to these characters that you genuinely want to forgive the weaker points of the movie and cheer on the moments that do land. The daughters do a great job giving us gender-flipped versions of Bill and Ted, and there are plenty of terrific callbacks to previous films, such as a Rufus cameo, Ted’s Dad, and Missy-I-mean-mom.
Maybe it wasn’t a necessary film, but it definitely made me happy in a year where we need all of the reminders of better times with old friends.