REVIEW: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
As someone who was a kid when the first two Bill & Ted movies came out, I’m pretty much the exact target audience for this sequel, being released almost thirty years after the last (and best) installment. I have mixed feelings about these nostalgic sequels and remakes/reboots, of which there has been many recently, particularly cashing-in on the 80s currently being considered cool thanks to the likes of Stranger Things. We’ve had the Ghostbusters reboot (2016) and Ghostbusters: Afterlife coming soon, Cobra Kai (a Karate Kid sequel) which has just come to Netflix, a long-rumoured Tremors reboot (which almost became a TV show with Kevin Bacon in 2018), the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, a Fame remake in 2009, Footloose remake in 2011, the long-running and successful Teen Wolf TV show (2011-2017) and a new Dirty Dancing movie in 2017, with another reboot on the way.
I almost feel guilty giving my money to some of these because it reinforces the idea in Hollywood that known properties are profitable and means there is less room for new, original scripts. However, in the case of Bill & Ted (and the upcoming Maverick film), it’s hard not to get excited when stars of the likes of Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise are returning to beloved characters.
Anticipation for a Bill & Ted sequel on social media, mainly fueled by Alex Winter (star and producer) and Ed Solomon (writer), has been building for a long time and when it was finally confirmed that yes, Keanu (who has been having his own renaissance) had signed on to do it, excitement levels went through the roof. It may be a cliché, but the motto of “Be Excellent To Each Other” feels like it has come back into our lives at the exact right time and the timing of the release means that this is the feel-good injection we all need at this precise moment.
The baby ‘Bill and Ted’ introduced at the end of Bogus Journey have grown into the adult Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), who worship both their fathers and classic rock music. Bill and Ted have been obsessing over the prophecy that they would “write a song that would unite the world” and have been trying to make the Wyld Stallions a success. The opening sequence sees them playing an…ahem…experimental work at the wedding of Missy (Amy Stoch) to Ted’s younger brother Deacon (Beck Bennett).
What follows is a familiar mind-bending time-travelling paradox-filled plot-twisty affair with the princesses Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) and Joanna (Jayma Mays), Billie and Thea and Bill and Ted all travelling through time on separate but interconnected missions. Billie and Thea set about gathering the greatest stars of music, including Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft) and Kid Cudi (Kid Cudi) to help their Dads with Wyld Stallions. Weaving and Lundy-Paine slide seamlessly into the world of Bill and Ted as if they were well, born to it. They mimic Reeves and Winter’s cadences and gaits brilliantly and this film would not work anywhere near as well if it wasn’t for them.
Meanwhile, Bill and Ted encounter themselves several times in the near-future in various guises, which makes Keanu Reeves’ lack of facial hair almost forgivable, because we get to see a range of wigs, beards, costumes and accents on future Bill and Ted. The main thing that got me excited for this sequel was the return of Death (William Sadler) and although he only really gets one main scene, it is worth it. The best new addition is guilt-ridden robot Dennis Caleb McCoy played by none other than NoHo Hank himself, Anthony Carrigan. There is also support from Holland Taylor (The Great Leader) and Kristen Schaal (The Great Leader’s daughter, Kelly) who have amusingly passive aggressive arguments over futuristic walkie-talkies.
Overall, this is the sweet and funny diversion that many of us need right now. Reeves and Winter’s chemistry has never gone away, thanks to their real-life friendship and their bond (and their characters’ bond) is stronger than ever. The enthusiasm of everyone involved really comes across onscreen, giving the palpable sense that this was a labour of love. When something has such an innate sense of fun and you can imagine how much fun it was to make, that’s always going to bleed through to the viewer experience. It is clear that Reeves and Winter don’t look down on their characters as ‘stoners’ or ‘dumb California surfer dudes,’ but respect the fact that qualities like kindness and loyalty and striving to make the world a better place should actually be aspirational and admired instead of sneeringly and cynically derided.
If you’re entering the world of Bill and Ted cold, hopefully you will find much to enjoy in the utter chaos onscreen – it’s a wild ride that you just have to go with, without attempting to analyse or think about too deeply. For those of us who have loved these characters since we were kids, this is the warm bath of comforting nostalgia that many of us are craving at the moment. Bill and Ted Face the Music could not have come at a better time.