Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) Review

Bill and Ted Face the Music is far from heinous, instead comprising a wholesome tale that retains the same charm as the earlier instalments. Reeves and Winter reprise their roles as the lovable lugheads in a most excellent way.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is a comedy, science fiction film directed by Dean Parisot [Galaxy Quest (1999), Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)]. Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, creators of the Bill & Ted franchise, co-wrote the third instalment. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their roles as Bill and Ted respectively, and the film also stars Samara Weaving [The Babysitter (2017)] as Bill’s daughter Theadora “Thea” Preston, and Brigette Lundy-Paine [Atypical (2017-)] as Ted’s daughter Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan. Kristen Schaal stars as Kelly, the daughter of Rufus. Bill and Ted are still married to the princesses Joanna and Elizabeth, who are now played by Jayma Mays and Erin Hayes.

Face the Music follows Bill and Ted’s quest to write the song that will unite the world. The audience learns that the Two Great Ones, who are now middle-aged dads, have been trying and failing to write the song for the last three decades. Kelly [Kristen Schaal], daughter of the Great Leader and Rufus, who was played by the late George Carlin in the earlier instalments, time travels to San Dimas 2020, to tell Bill and Ted they must have the song ready by 7:17pm, which will now not only unite the world through music but also save all time, space and reality. The deadline for the song is rapidly approaching, demonstrating the same plot device used in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) which is motivated by the history assignment deadline. Whilst Bill and Ted are trying to fix the future, Billie and Thea try to help their dads by travelling back in time to collect musicians from across history to perform the song.

The overall feel of the film feels both nostalgic and current at once. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is, for want of a better term, very much of its time. Therefore, the third instalment needed to retain the franchise’s fundamental style, whilst now having the advantage of advancements made in CGI. Interestingly enough, the 1989 film was made on a budget of $10m and Face the Music was made on a budget of $25m. If we adjust inflation rates, $10m in 1989 is equal to about $21m today, therefore both films are similar in terms of budget. With reboots, it’s always a worry the viewer will be bombarded with so many gratuitous references and callbacks that the film’s premise becomes muddied, but Face the Music did a good job of staying on task whilst offering a few nods to the earlier films.

Bill and Ted are still very much the lovable yet slow-witted dudes who somehow seem to have figured out the fundamentals of space-time travel. I, on the other hand, had a much more difficult time wrapping my head around the nuances of time travel, but we all know Bill and Ted are able to avoid the dreaded time paradox as seen in some films… I’m looking at you Back to the Future trilogy.

At it’s core, Face the Music is a fun and wholesome film, just like it’s predecessors. It’s usually at this point in a review I would begin to look at formal techniques, but in terms of cinematography nothing in particular stood out to me. The film does of course use sound very effectively, as music is at the heart of the film, and in the hearts of the Wyld Stallyns. Music is used both diegetically and non-diegetically to propel the narrative, which helps keep the storytelling consistent and progressive. The special effects are completely excessive, which as an eighties movie homage, they definitely should be.

Billie and Thea are tricky characters indeed to analyse. The provide a very specific function in the film’s plot but the characterisation is a little strange. They are portrayed as having the same mannerisms as their dads, but we never really get the chance to see their relationship with one another. Face the Music is sort of running two parallel plots at once that fuse together at the end, which means there’s no time to delve into Billie and Thea’s characters in their own right. Also, whilst the princesses are Billie and Thea’s mothers, I would not be surprised if Bill and Ted reproduced in a plant-like manner, asexually producing their daughters as genetic clones of themselves as they seem to have no traits from their respective mothers. Whilst this is a Bill and Ted film, it would have been nice to have had a bit more fleshing out of Billie and Thea, but it’s understandable why this would be beyond the film’s scope.

The film culminates in it’s very sweet message that music has the power to unite the world. My only quips with the film overall are that I wish Billie and Thea’s characters had more depth to them, and, in the same vein, that the merging of Bill and Ted’s and Billie and Thea’s journeys coalesced into altering the relationship they have with their fathers. Having now experienced time travel themselves, we would expect the daughters to have a deeper understanding of their dad’s experiences. This is never really acknowledged in the film, and I think it could have made the story all the more compelling.

If you’re a Bill and Ted fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this film as much as I did. It’s bodacious!

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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