By Christian DiMartino
Bill and Ted return after nearly 30 years with their newest outing, Bill & Ted Face the Music. Now the amount of time passed here is mentioned because in recent memory, a lot of “new/old” acts have re-emerged; sequels that should’ve came out shortly after their predecessors. Sometimes, it works, like with Blade Runner 2049 and Mad Max: Fury Road– two breathtaking works that justified their existence. With each overdue sequel though, due to the disappointment of Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, etc., I’m forced to approach them with the same question: if they didn’t have a good idea for a sequel 30, 20, 10 years ago, do they have one now?
So, where does Bill & Ted Face the Music fall? Well, it really depends on who you are. The critical consensus is pretty positive- it currently sits at an 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that it has better reviews than Tenet. To be frank, when I made that realization, it disturbed me a tad. Were people being kind to it because they’d been cooped up in their homes for so long?
It breaks my heart to say this, but Bill & Ted Face the Music didn’t do it for me. I rooted for it, I really did. The original two films, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, were silly but the silliness was infectious, its humor mostly creative and thoughtful, and its ideas fully realized and decent. Not great films, but very enjoyable if you’re willing to turn your brain off and enjoy. The trouble here is that the ideas and the humor in Bill & Ted Face the Music doesn’t have the laid-back, free-spirit of its predecessors. There are decent ideas here, but it’s as if the ideas got more of the majority rule here over the humor, which is so-so.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves slide pretty comfortably back into the roles of Bill and Ted, now married with children, but also still the same. They still rock and roll, but it’s for the sake of creating a song that will bring the universe back together. No pressure. Early on they are visited by Kristen Schaal’s Kelly (the daughter of the late great George Carlin’s character Rufus), who takes them to the future. Here they are told that not only do they need to write a song to bring the universe back together, but they basically need to write a song that will save the world.
Again, no pressure.
They are also told that if they don’t find this song, then they will be killed anyways. So Bill and Ted travel through time to find their future selves in the hopes that, through decades, they’ve written their masterpiece. Meanwhile, their adult daughters, Billie and Thea (Bridgette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving) hatch a plan to help them by uniting the greatest musicians in history- such as Jimi Hendrix and Mozart- to help cook up this world-saving masterpiece.
Lundy-Paine and Weaving have a somewhat difficult task here: they have to capture the spirit of their predecessor’s characters while also pulling off their own characters. Both do a decent job. Lundy-Paine, who looks a lot like Finn Wolfhard, is more effective at capturing Reeves’ persona than Weaving, who was excellent in last year’s Ready or Not. Both do fine though with their respective material.
Part of my issue here though is that there is just a little too much going on. The ideas are there, but Bill and Ted have to share their own movie with a large ensemble. The stuff with Reeves and Winter is fine- it’s as if they never left. At times though it felt like they were trying to accomplish just a little too much in terms of story, and in return, the humor is sort of put on the backburner whenever Reeves and Winter aren’t onscreen.
At about the 45 minute mark, it occurred to me that this was perhaps just a little too much of a mediocre thing. It’s not a boring movie, but it lacks the comedic invention of its predecessors. It lacks the effortlessness spirit too. It’s not a film that feels over-worked, necessarily, and yet it’s just a little too busy. There are good moments- the return of William Sadler’s Grim Reaper was definitely welcome, as are cameos by Dave Grohl and Kid Cudi.
Much of the movie is so-so, but it builds to a conclusion that… I really didn’t like. Not going to say why, but it just didn’t work for me. Whether or not you choose to rent this film is up to you. Here’s the thing: humor is subjective. What I find funny, someone else may not find funny. This film isn’t very funny to me, but it may be funny to you. Once it was over though, I watched Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen from last January again. Now there is a comedy I can get behind, and one that is funnier than this. If you watch both and find yourself having a better time at Bill & Ted Face the Music, I’ll happily eat my own foot. But hey, that’s just me.