While their motto of "be excellent to each other" couldn't come at a better time for our country, Bill & Ted's latest adventure/journey/romp is so awful, so painful and so inexplicable, it only makes sense that it is being released in 2020.
"Bill & Ted Face the Music" is most heinous indeed. It's now 29 years since we last saw Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) on their last "Bogus Journey" and 31 years since their original "Excellent Adventure." Married to their "princess" wives from the last film (recast with Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays), Bill & Ted are now both fathers to their doppleganger daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving). Bill & Ted have yet to write the song that is supposed to "unite the world," so someone from the future (Kristen Schaal, playing a relative of the late George Carlin's Rufus character) is sent to back to make sure it happens.
Or something like that.
Look...I get the nostalgia and the draw of Bill & Ted. Their original films were modest, surprising box office hits 30 years ago, and the duo have become somewhat of cult heroes ever since. They're the sweet and innocent inspirations of the more mean-spirited Beavis & Butthead, the dim and dimmer versions of SNL's Wayne & Garth. They're endearing, a mix of lovable doses of stoner and surfer mentalities. They mean well. And trust me, the original films are not held up and beloved for their keen understanding of quantum physics or the finer details of time-travel, but mainly because we like the characters...and (here's a mind-blowing concept!) they were actually pretty funny.
30 years later, adult Bill & Ted are just...sad. Might it not have been a bit more interesting to actually have seen these men grow up? To hear them continue to converse "in their most excellent" way of talking is not only tired, but it's become lame. But with their two daughters literally becoming female versions of their younger selves, wouldn't that have been interesting to see a more mature, world-worn Bill & Ted dealing with modern teenagers?
If there was anything - anything at all worth being positive about in "Bill & Ted Face the Music - I would try to highlight it. But because it is devoid of any laughs, any fun, or any of its original charm, there's nowhere good to begin.
Keanu Reeves has SO outgrown the role of Ted, there is a certain charity in his very presence. He's better than this. They all are. Instead of imagining what this duo might have become in the "real" timeline, Bill & Ted spend much of this film travelling through time and visiting other versions of themselves in what they might have become, from two washed-up musicians playing in dive bars, to steroid-juiced prison inmate versions. No humor is to be found in any of the situations created.
To draw parallels with the original film, where Bill & Ted raced through time collecting important historical figures for their school history project, young Billie and Thea spend most of this movie doing the same, only they are rounding up the greatest musicians of all-time...and rapper Kid Cudi (playing himself). I've never sunk so low as to rip on an actor or actress's performance, so I won't start now, only to say that both Lundy-Paine and Weaving try their best to caricature their on-screen father figures. No originality is brought to their characters, and again, no humor is to be found in any of the situations created.
Supporting actors, normally inherently funny (like Erinn Hayes, Kristen Schaal or Beck Bennett) are given nothing funny to do. Nothing funny to say.
There have been many failed attempts to rekindle 80s and 90s nostalgia, and sadly the resurrection of the Bill & Ted franchise is just the latest to fail. Often times when such a "re-launch" is attempted, you have to ask yourself: Why? What's the reason they're doing this? Sometimes they're able to hit on something that works, or find the appeal that still exists with the original audience.
I don't blame anyone for being excited at the existence of a new "Bill & Ted" film...I too was excited and a bit curious as to how they'd bring Bill & Ted into 2020. But unfortunately, "Bill & Ted Face the Music" is stuck in 1991, and this time there's no saving them.
When Death (William Sadler) finally appears, reprising his role from "Bogus Journey," I thought to myself that it wasn't soon enough. Death comes to us all, but apparently not to this franchise, until hopefully now.
If you can make it that far, stick around after the credits for a stinger scene featuring senior-citizen-aged versions of Bill & Ted, rocking out in their hospital room together. It's a very literal presumable end for the pair, hitting the nail on the head that these two are old and tired, just like their latest movie.
Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Music.
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, William Sadler, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes.
Written by Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon ("Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey").
Directed by Dean Parisot ("RED 2," "Fun with Dick and Jane," "Galaxy Quest").
"Bill & Ted Face the Music" is available on streaming and in select drive-ins on Friday, August 24th, 2020.
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