- Bill & Ted Face the Music
- Directed by Dean Parisot
- Written by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson
- Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and William Sadler
- Classification PG; 89 minutes
This weekend, moviegoers will finally be able to watch a long-awaited epic about the power of fate, the mind-bending physics of time travel, and the courage that it takes to save the world. And also, Tenet is opening.
While all film-industry eyes will be trained on Christopher Nolan’s thriller this weekend as it tries to save the international box office, anyone not obsessed with that palindromic blockbuster should spare 89 minutes to watch Bill & Ted Face the Music, a far more lighthearted and comprehensible time-travel romp.
Admittedly, it’s been a beat since anyone outside the inner circles of Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves thought much about Bill and Ted, two hard-rocking dudes who hold the fate of the space-time continuum in their guitar-wielding hands. Absent from the screen for an astonishing 29 years – which is when the stoners, who are never actually seen getting stoned, last appeared in the surreal and endearing Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – the heroes could have safely stayed preserved in the cinematic amber of 1991, and no one would’ve rioted. Or maybe even noticed. But the impressive dedication of the filmmaking team prevailed, and here we are in 2020, where anything is possible.
Thankfully, Bill & Ted Face the Music is the opposite of a cash grab. The original films weren’t exactly blockbusters or theme-park material, so there is no real franchise to preserve. There is only the passion of the film’s stars and original writers, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, who have plowed through development hell (and real-deal Hell) for the sole purpose of getting to spend more time with characters and a world they deeply love. That creative-team affection is contagious here, with the new film coasting on highly endearing performances and thoroughly enjoyable silliness.
Opening with a catch-up of what Bill (Winters) and Ted (Reeves) have been up to since the finale of Bogus Journey, which turns out to be not that much at all, the film quickly dispenses with any present-day antics before hopscotching around time. It turns out that the future is still dependent on the pair creating a world-uniting song, and that their failure to do so has caused various rips in the fabric of existence.
While their previous adventure necessitated the help of a time-travelling George Carlin, God, Death and a grungy alien duo named Station, this time Bill and Ted are aided by their nearly adult daughters (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving, each doing most-excellent Winter and Reeves impersonations), plus a futuristic sage (Kristen Schaal), rapper Kid Cudi, and a killer robot who is delighted to constantly reveal that his full name is Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan). Oh, and Death is still around, too, played once again with a delightful mix of bewilderment and bemusement by William Sadler.
Although the tale feels a bit slight – and yeah, I’m still aware we’re talking about a Bill & Ted movie – the affair is ultimately breezy, harmless fun. New-to-the-series director Dean Parisot walks a careful line between fan service and originality, likely using the lessons he learned on Galaxy Quest, while Solomon and Matheson wink at their audience just enough times before it gets annoying. Winter and Reeves, meanwhile, have clearly been preparing for this moment for the past three decades, and God bless their unbridled enthusiasm: Few actors in their fifties would be game to embrace such an immature-and-loving it level of guilelessness.
The film’s core message – be excellent to each other, especially your family – is also nicely timed for this tumultuous moment. The world could use more Bill and Ted. If Winter and Reeves choose to strap their guitars back on in 2049, we should be grateful.
Bill & Ted Face the Music opens in Canadian theatres Aug. 28, the same day it is available digitally on-demand
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