Nearly 30 years after Bogus Journey, the boys of Wyld Stallyns are back in Bill & Ted Face the Music, and it’s a most excellent adventure, indeed.
In the lead-up to watching Bill & Ted Face the Music, I was concerned about my own anticipation. I figure I’m not alone: when a franchise returns decades after its previous installment, it’s usually not because it has deep, meaningful insights to share with the audience.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey had long been a blind spot in my viewing, and I rectified it shortly before watching Face the Music. The effort disappointed me, as it seemed to forget the elements that made Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter), and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) such lovable goofs in the first place.
This made me slightly hesitant about Bill & Ted Face the Music. But as I watched, I realized the filmmakers (director Dean Parisot and writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon) had done right by Bill and Ted, and everyone within their time-traveling orbit. There’s a sense of joy and wonder to the whole thing, but the thematic axis is the importance of friendship, the ability to own up to one’s mistakes, and the need to just do better.
It doesn’t get much more “2020” than the fabric of space and time coming apart unless our heroes write the perfect song by a specific deadline…and their decision to hop around in time to steal said song from their future-selves. Meanwhile, daughters Thea Preston (Samara Weaving) and Billie Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) decide to take matters into their own hands.
I like the notion of Bill and Ted, while settled into middle age, still remaining the ambitious dreamers we met in Excellent Adventure. And a palpable idealism lives on in Thea and Billie, who possess the same endearing blend of musical savvy and wild-eyed wonder. The daughters don’t despair in the face of a challenge…even if that challenge is finding a way out of Hell. (Hmm…there appears to be a veiled message about the younger generation bailing the older generation out of trouble, which also seems apropos of our turbulent year.)
But here’s the interesting thing: while Face the Music may be the Bill and Ted remix of that Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where our irresponsible, spiky-haired protagonist creates duplicates to clean his room so he can go outside and play, it adds the midlife conundrum of, “How do I stay true to myself when I’ve been assimilated into The Establishment?” Bill and Ted discover the future’s not what they anticipated, and while this leads to many funny and heartfelt encounters, it also draws into question our own desire for the quickest, most painless fix when life unloads unforeseen problems upon us.
The chemistry between Thea, Billie, and their dads is brilliant. The girls are innocent but not naive, and always looking out for the greater – in this case, universal – good. As we age, our focus is forcibly shifted to the minutiae of everyday life: going to work, collecting a paycheck, paying the bills…
We become so distracted by the trivialities of the capitalist game that we have a harder time seeing things outside of our complacent perspectives. Thea and Billie remind us that there’s much to be seen, and bring Bill and Ted around to that fact, as well. (If it isn’t obvious enough, I’d really like Billie & Thea’s Excellent Adventure next.)
Death (William Sadler) was a highlight of Bogus Journey, a curmudgeon cursed with the loneliest job in existence. At the beginning of Face the Music, he’s split from Wyld Stallyns.
When Bill and Ted find themselves in Hell once again, the reconciliation with their old friend and band-mate is a thing of beauty. It might be an odd comparison, but Face the Music reminded me of Paddington in that way: underlining human decency without being condescending or saccharine in the execution.
All that said, not everything in Bill & Ted Face the Music works. The musician cameos are bound to date the film, and certain logistical elements in the last act don’t add up…though I suppose I should just chill out and not argue matters of “logic.”
As 2020 continues its bizarre spiral, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a much-needed battle cry for a return to sanity and sensibility, and for that, I strum my own air-guitar in solidarity.
Let us know if you are ready for Bill & Ted Face the Music in the comments.