It’s been almost thirty whole years since their previous out-of-this-world experience, and now Bill and Ted have returned in a feature that is mostly excellent, with just the tiniest hints of bogusness here and there. Generally, long-awaited sequels like this flounder and fail to live up to their legacies, but Bill & Ted Face the Music stands as tall as the originals, serves as a wonderful closing chapter to the story of the Wyld Stallyns, and is a very, very welcome bit of over-the-top optimism that I think is sorely lacking in the world right now.
Face the Music starts with Bill and Ted in a rut – and an opening scene that had me laughing and cringing simultaneously – having been unable to make any new music on par with their most righteous premiere in San Dimas at the end of Bogus Journey, twenty-five years ago. Shortly after the movie opens, they are brought to the future and told that they have less than an hour and a half to write and perform a song that will not only unite the world, but save time and space as we know it. Time-hopping and afterlife shenanigans ensue, which allows the lovable goofballs to meet characters both new and old to the series.
Speaking of the old characters, the returning cast members from the previous movies worked wonders with making Face the Music feel like a true follow-up to Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves instantly rekindle the charm and comradery of Bill and Ted despite their decades-long absences from the roles, William Sadler’s Grim Reaper is as lively and enjoyable as ever, and there are a few others -who I won’t spoil here – that I was pleasantly surprised to see had returned as well.
The new players in Face the Music are just as great. Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine, who play Thea and Billie, the daughters of the titular duo, easily capture the same lighthearted, oh-so-endearing vibes and bond of Reeves and Winter. Kristen Schaal is incredibly fun to watch as Kelly, the new time-traveling guide in the place of George Carlin’s Rufus. Jillian Bell makes the absolute most of her time as Bill and Ted’s family therapist. Everyone is great, but for me, Anthony Carrigan steals the show as a most peculiar robot that had me laughing out loud practically every other line he spoke or shot he was in.
The story, however, isn’t as awesome as the cast. It’s completely serviceable, but entirely predictable, doesn’t do much to grow or move past its… Well, past, and a few story beats had me questioning the writing and some of the characters’ decisions. I can’t really complain too much though, as both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey had a few gaps in their story/character logic as well.
All things considered, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a most impressive success that is exactly what I wanted: a new Bill & Ted odyssey with wacky antics in a wacky world packed with even wackier characters. It’s remarkably silly, wonderfully heartfelt, and unabashedly positive. So, basically “Anti-2020: The Movie.”