Launching a solid sequel to a franchise that last appeared on the silver screen in 1991 is no easy task. The world has changed tremendously since William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) captivated audiences with their silly antics and love of rock music, and comedic style is a tricky and elusive thing that rarely transcends decades. Bill & Ted Face the Music, however, avoids all of the pitfalls of extremely late sequels, and offers old and new fans an entertaining and lighthearted experience that neither feels dated nor like a departure from the formula that made the franchise a success in the first place.
Bill & Ted Face the Music juggles fan expectations of the series with new stories in such a seamless way that it would be difficult for fans of the series to walk away disappointed. Want to see what middle-aged Bill and Ted’s lives are like with their wives from the middle ages? You got it! Not sure whether you preferred the time traveling shenanigans of Excellent Adventure or the descent into Hell featured in Bogus Journey? No worries, because Face the Music revisits both concepts. Do you miss the absolutely bonkers Station: the creepily awkward critter from the second film? Don’t worry, he’s name-dropped and a bizarro robot named Dennis Caleb McCoy oozes with unusualness in all of his scenes. If that wasn’t enough, the filmmakers also manage to introduce Bridgette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Billie and Thea, Bill and Ted’s daughters who have inherited all of their fathers’ mannerisms and go on their own adventure worthy of the Preston and Logan names.
The Bill & Ted franchise has always worked because of the chemistry between Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, and the screenplay by original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon allow that chemistry to flourish in the new film. Bill and Ted may be older, but they’re the same lovable doofs we fell in love with all those years ago. The characters become even more endearing when we see how their talents and passions have rubbed off on their loving daughters. Lundy-Paine and Weaving craft characters who are more than just a chip off the old blocks, and the physicality and comedic timing they bring to their roles deftly moves the franchise forward. No matter who is on screen, this film always feels first and foremost like a Bill and Ted movie.
What’s perhaps most impressive and engaging about Bill & Ted Face the Music is the fact that the film avoids the level of darkness and mean-spirited behavior that is usually found in contemporary comedies… even though the film takes audiences through Hell, to the end of the world, and to a variety of alternate futures where Bill and Ted turn out to be jerks. The series always had a carefree and positive attitude, and the past three decades have not influenced that formula. Despite all of the gravity of its plot, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a fun and lighthearted experience that earns its chuckles through its engaging characters and silly situations.
Bill & Ted Face the Music rounds out the experience with fun cameo appearances such as a holographic tribute to the late George Carlin, the return of William Sadler as Death, and appearances by music royalty Kid Cudi and Dave Grohl. Given the pedigree of the franchise and its musical roots, it would have been nice to see even more familiar faces and rock gods throughout the film, but the filmmakers made the most of the cameos they did have in ways that made sense for progressing the story.
Whether you’re a casual fan or a hardcore follower of the franchise, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a fun and refreshing experience that just might restore your optimism the next time you hear that a long-dormant franchise is coming back with a new sequel. While most of them prove to be bogus journeys, Bill & Ted Face the Music shows that it is entirely possible for some to turn out to be an excellent adventure.