Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kirsten Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, William Sadler, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, DazMann Stills, Daniel Dorr, Hal Landon Jr.
Producers: David Haring, Scott Kroopf, Alex Lebovci, Steve Ponce, Ed Solomon
Music: Mark Isham
Cinematography: Shelly Johnson
Editor: Don Zimmerman
Running time: 91mins
What’s the story: Down on their luck and still trying to unite humanity through their music, Bill & Ted (Reeves & Winter) are informed by Rufus’ daughter (Schaal) they need to write an inspirational song to prevent reality imploding.
What’s the verdict: Almost three decades have passed since Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan bid us to “Be excellent to each other” and “Party on, dudes!” In this divided age that advice seems more pertinent than ever. So now is the perfect time for another instalment from the Wyld Stallions, yes?
Yes indeed, so it is a shame Bill and Ted Face the Music is itself less than perfect. Truth be told, this was always a charmingly scrappy franchise… admittedly, we never saw the early 90s animated series, so let us know if that was Ghibli level entertainment.
The original 1989 Excellent Adventure remains the best of the bunch, zipping by on energy, charm and genuine comedy. 1991’s Bogus Journey had its share of all that too, but now seems overbaked and episodic.
However, that sequel did deal an ace in the form of William Sadler’s Death. Happily, Bill & Ted writing duo Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon do right by The Grim Reaper and bring him back for another go-round.
Although directed by Galaxy Quest’s Dean Parisot, Matheson and Solomon are the driving force here, beating the drum for a return since 2010. Commercialisation of nostalgia twinned with Keanu’s John Wick box office cred finally saw the nice-but-dim duo greenlit for part three.
So, is Bill and Ted Face the Music bogus? No, but it feels surprisingly reheated and lazy. iPhones and spruced up FX aside this could have been released pretty much anytime in the last twenty five years.
Matheson and Solomon go the easy route of rewriting Bogus Journey’s triumphant denouement, so the late-middle aged Bill and Ted have now reached ultimate sad sack. Ted’s dad (a returning Landon Jr.) is still berating his son for being a drop out. The pair are failing at marriage, going to couple’s counselling as a foursome to the chagrin of their spouses. Then discover they have 70 minutes to write a song that will stop reality from imploding. So again, a race against time plot.
Cue zipping through parallel realities to “steal” the song from their future selves, meeting themselves as prison musclemen, effete rockers (quite funny actually) and crumbly OAPs. Reeves and Winter perform with the requisite wide-eyed, breathless gusto, but the script fails to meet them halfway.
Meanwhile, the lads’ daughters, Thea (Weaving) and Billie (Lundy-Paine), are off in a potted version of the Excellent Adventure, cherry-picking history’s greatest musicians to write that world-uniting song. The pair do their darndest but again are hobbled by predictability. Although it is good fun watching DazMann Still’s Jimi Hendrix in a play-off with Daniel Dorr’s Mozart.
How better it would have been to make the pair musically at odds with their dads and teaming them all up for one adventure. Cheekily the climax wriggles out of having to play us the best song ever written.
For a film trading on the nostalgia of a near thirty year absence, it disappointingly still casts women almost fifteen years younger than Reeves and Winter as Bill and Ted’s wives. Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays are fine, but we’d still have preferred to see Diane Franklin and Kimberley Kates return.
Ultimately, a two-star film pushed to three because of the likeability of all involved. But dudes, be excellent to the audience and don’t hit so many bum notes if you face the music again.