Heading into Bill & Ted Face the Music, I was hyped like so many other people. This was the movie series that turned Keanu Reeves into a Hollywood comedy icon and spawned so many memes! I should be excited to see him return to that role with all the experience he has mustered through decades of acting… And what I got was a sorta shaved John Wick trying his best to do as many parodies of the memes about himself as possible while other stories got wasted in the wings.
Title: Bill & Ted Face The Music
Production Company: Orion Pictures, Hammerstone Studios & Tin-Rez Entertainment
Distributed by: United Artists Releasing
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Produced by: Scott Kroopf, Alex Lebovici, David Haring, Steve Ponce, Ed Solomon & Alex Winter
Written by: Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler & Jillian Bell
Based on: “Bill & Ted” by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
Release dates: August 28, 2020 (Worldwide)
Running time: 92 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (United States) / PG (Australia)
How’s It Going Bill & Ted?
Since the events of their previous journey, Theodore “Ted” Logan and William “Bill” Preston, Esq., of the rock band Wyld Stallyns, have so far failed to write a prophesied song that would unite the world, the effects of which has started to cause time and reality to collapse. After a horrendous performance at Ted’s brother’s wedding and unsuccessful couples counseling with their spouses, Ted confides in Bill that he doesn’t believe they’ll ever write the song. Kelly, the daughter of Rufus, arrives from the future to take Bill and Ted back to meet with The Great Leader, who tells them they have until 7:17 pm that night to write the song, or reality will collapse.
Realizing they won’t be able to write the song in time, Bill and Ted use Rufus’ time-traveling phone booth, to attempt to steal the song from future versions of themselves where they were successful. However, with each jump ahead into the future, they come across themselves in progressively worse situations, learning that their wives leave them and their daughters no longer speak to them. At the same time, the future versions of their wives – princesses Joanna and Elizabeth – visit their present counterparts, to find a time and place where they are happy with their marriages. With Bill and Ted missing, The Great Leader enacts an alternative plan to kill Bill and Ted using a time-traveling robot, in the hopes their death will restore balance in the universe. Kelly travels back to the present day to warn the two, but instead meets their daughters – Billie and Thea – who want to help their fathers create the song. Using Kelly’s time machine, they enlist the help of historical figures all throughout music history, such as Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ling Lun, and a cavewoman named Grom, to form a band that would play alongside their fathers. Bill and Ted travel to 2025, where they have seemingly been successful, but are tricked by their future counterparts, who have inhabited Dave Grohl’s mansion to try and pass off one of his songs as their own. Billie, Thea, and their assembled band return to present-day San Dimas, meeting up with Kelly and a time-displaced Kid Cudi, but find the robot waiting for them, who kills the entire group and sends them to Hell.
Bill and Ted travel to 2067, to find their elderly future selves on their deathbeds. The elder Bill and Ted give their younger selves a USB flash drive containing the song, Face the Music, written by Preston and Logan, stating that it must be performed at 7:17 PM at “MP 46”. The robot appears again but stands down upon learning they now have the song and regretfully informs them that he has mistakenly killed their daughters. Bill and Ted urge the robot, named Dennis, to kill all of them so they can rescue Billie and Thea, breaking the USB in the process. The three arrive in Hell and locate their daughters, as well as the historical band, and settle past differences with the Grim Reaper to bring everyone back to life in San Dimas, the present day.
The group arrive on the Interstate 210, in the middle of a traffic jam as reality is collapsing. At the MP 46 marker, they realize the song must be performed here, even though they still do not know what it is. Bill and Ted realize that the “Preston and Logan” who wrote the song are actually their music-loving daughters, but the song must be performed by everyone across all of time and space. The girls produce the song with their band, while Bill and Ted rejoin with Joanna and Elizabeth, who have returned to the present, realizing they are the happiest living right now. The four use the phone booth’s ‘infinity’ button to create infinite copies of themselves across time and space, to hand instruments to everyone who ever lived across every era. Everyone across reality performs Face the Music together, while Bill and Ted return and lead the band on guitar, causing a massive energy surge that repairs the universe and returns everyone to their rightful time periods.
In a post-credits scene, the elder Bill and Ted in 2067 check up on each other’s well-being before performing a most excellent guitar solo.
Greetings my excellent friends!
- Keanu Reeves as Ted “Theodore” Logan
How the mighty have fallen. Ted is still with Bill, the two are still trying to find that one hit song the unites the world (since somehow, the one at the end of Bogus Journey didn’t end up being that song, even though the credits played it off as it did. One of many major missteps in this movie), so when they are summoned back to the future and find out all of reality will be destroyed without the song, they go into the future to take the song instead of writing it, only to get their daughters to do the song instead. Reeves just plays Ted the same way you want him to, he’s dumb and says “Woah” a lot. Reeves is an amazing actor who has grown so much as an actor that a role like this is a major step backward for him. A lot of the time you can tell that Reeves is just playing a parody of what he used to be like instead of the role being a natural fit for him. Hell, he probably only has long hair because it would take too long to grow back for John Wick 4, and it ages him so much (that and the bad makeup). It’s sad to see that the actor has more growth in real life than the character he is playing. The film does so much better when Reeves gets a chance to be the future Teds, giving his acting experience a chance to shine instead of being dragged through the mud when he plays the present-day version.
- Alex Winter as William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq
Playing the other half of the duo that never grew up, Bill as a character is still the same as he was in the previous films, but just looks a lot older, making the experience look again like a parody of the character than the actor playing a good role. I haven’t kept up on Alex Winter’s career post-Bill & Ted, but you can tell that while he had some fun in the role, he is just very out of place in a modern setting with the character.
- Kristen Schaal as Kelly, daughter of Rufus
First off, why give the role of Kelly (named for the daughter of George Carlin) to someone who isn’t the actual person who appears in the film as a cameo role? No idea. But Schaal does a very good job of doing honor to the role of adviser to Bill & Ted or Thea & Billie when she is allowed to that is. Since her character is the only one in the movie who still has faith in Bill & Ted producing the song that will unite the universe, she does what she can to assist both groups to do anything that can save the future. However, she is pretty much wasted standing around relaying the information about how bad things are getting to her mom in the future that you wonder why she is there at all. At least Schaal did a good job and gave honor to Carlin’s character while retraining some form of an individual personality, unlike these next two entries.
- Samara Weaving as Theodora “Thea” Preston
Thea is a carbon copy of Ted in every way. From movement to love of music, to mannerisms and speech patterns. There is NOTHING original with this character. I feel sorry for Samara Weaving, who has done so many betters roles than this and will have this as a black mark on her resume forever. You can tell she tried her best with the role, but you can tell it wasn’t written for her and badly written at that.
- Brigette Lundy-Paine as Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan
Billie is another carbon copy of her father’s character, with progression and purpose lifted directly from parts of the previous two films. She isn’t really well known, but like Weaving, she tries to do her best with a badly written role that wasn’t written for her. I’d try and do a character dive into both characters, but why bother when the words “carbon copy” are enough to explain it all.
- William Sadler as the Grim Reaper, the personification of Death who had some sort of fallout with Bill & Ted due to a lawsuit
Do you remember how Death was the best part of Bogus Journey? Going from ultra-serious specter of death to a laugh-riot bass player? Well, the character and look are still there, but Death is just broken down and jaded. Having been booted from Wyld Stallions for trying to take the name from Bill & Ted, Death returned to hell only to be demoted to a joke, isolating himself in his own home in hell to strum away on the bass alone and play games by himself. He rejoins the group after being ego-tripped into it by Thea and Billie. Sadler still approaches the role with all the style and flair that he did in the past, with the makeup improved since then too… Only to end up appearing midway into act 3 and being wasted once his reintroduction has been completed. With only a total of about 6 to 8 minutes on screen, Death is wasted due to too many characters being included by that point in the film.
- Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy
I have no idea what to think about the character or the actor in this role. As Dennis, a time-traveling robot sent to kill Bill & Ted (Killer robots? Again?), we got some sort of Terminator crossed with the robotic look of Death. I originally thought this might have been Death himself in another sub-plot, or the future style son of Death. But we get just a robot who is being sent to kill Bill & Ted… again. Though once Dennis is about to complete his mission, he develops emotions and is sorry for accidentally sending Thea & Billie to hell, then he cannot do the same to Bill & Ted, leading to him shooting himself to hell anyway. Once there he goes around introducing himself and talking about his emotional issues though everyone wants him to shut up and leave. There was potential here, with more story to be told, but like most of the sub-plots in Bill & Ted Face the Music, it comes out of nowhere, has no development, and no real conclusion. Carrigan does a good job in this role I guess? Hard to tell when the character is all over the place.
- Erinn Hayes as Princess Elizabeth Logan
She’s back, she sounds English, and she’s there in the end to help Ted. There’s a sub-plot where she goes on a trip through the future timelines with Joanna to see if there is a future where she is happy with her loser husband, provided by her future self, but again, it comes out of nowhere, gets zero development, and ends with you going “Why?”. I’d talk about Hayes’ performance, but her character gets sidelined so quickly that I can’t really judge it or explore it.
- Jayma Mays as Princess Joanna Preston
See what I wrote above for Hayes as Elizabeth? Yep, same thing here. The character gets a subplot that goes nowhere, and a revelation that we’ll never know, and isn’t on screen enough to even bother looking any deeper into.
- Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan, Ted’s father
Ted’s father is back, he’s still disappointed in Ted and wanting him to be more like a traditional adult. At least that’s how he begins. Once he is accidentally sent to hell by the Dennis robot, suddenly the hard-ass cop turns into a supportive father who suddenly believes in everything that happened in the previous two films and how his son is going to, one day, write the song that will unite the world. Much like the Princesses plotline above, we don’t see what triggers that revelation other than he is actually in hell, which seems a bit far fetched to believe. Landon slips right back into this role like he never left it, a real testament to the actor.
- Beck Bennett as Officer Deacon Logan, Ted’s younger brother
Ted’s brother is only in the film for one joke: to continue the line of guys that Missy marries and bones. Pointless.
- Amy Stoch as Missy, Bill & Ted’s former step-mother
Missy is back and she continues her tradition of jumping from one member of Bill & Ted’s family to another. That’s the joke and the only reason she is there. Pointless.
- Kid Cudi as himself
1. Who the fuck is Kid Cudi? 2. Why is he acting like Station? 3. Why should I give a shit? I’m sorry, I have no idea who this guy is. I’m guessing he is someone in modern popular music that the younger generation will know and is the bridge in the musician collection to the modern era. For some reason, the guy acts like he is the ultra-smart type, a placeholder for Station. I don’t know why we just didn’t get a return for Station, but I guess we needed the “smart guy” for… comedy? God only knows.
- Holland Taylor as The Great Leader, DazMann Still as Jimi Hendrix, Jeremiah Craft as Louis Armstrong, Sharon Gee as Ling Lun, Patty Anne Miller as Grom, & Daniel Dorr as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ok, I could sit here and recap all these B-Tier characters, but to be honest none of them actually do anything worth talking about. The Great Leader is the one who no longer believes in Bill & Ted, sending a lot of things into motion for the film but ultimately does nothing, and the rest and the Pokemon… I mean, Musicians from history. They do good jobs looking and acting like the people they are meant to be (At least in what I know about guys like Hendrix & Armstrong through archival footage), but ultimately the characters are just collected up to be used in the finale. Unlike the previous version of this storyline, we do not get anything much beyond their introduction to work with, so no interaction with the modern age, nothing. A lot of waste here that I won’t even bother giving a simple paragraph to for each one of them.
- George Carlin appears posthumously as Rufus
Yep, we get 5 seconds of archival footage used to show Rufus explaining the original time machine to whoever walks past. It was brief, but it was good to see Rufus again in the movie. At least they couldn’t fuck that up.
Excellent *Air-Guitar Shred*
Look, it’s good to see Bill & Ted back on the movie screen (or TV/Computer depending on how you see it), they are still a somewhat light-hearted duo when they are together. Bill & Ted are still dumb as a couple of bricks, which is something that was easy to buy back when the first 2 films came out, but as older adults, especially Fathers, you’d think that something would cause them to actually “grow up” and have something more than the 2 digit IQs they had as teenagers/early-twenty somethings. I know what this is what the duo is known for, and it’s good to see that they wanted to keep the same mindset from the previous movies, but it doesn’t work today.
That being said, the “future” Bill & Ted combinations are a highlight for the film, giving the actors a chance to break away from the brain-dead teenage personas and get into something more closer to actual adults with adult brain functions. You see progress from a shocked Bill & Ted 2 years from 2020, to more jaded versions 5 years from 2020, then the prison ones who are just pure disappointment and hate, but still are trying to fulfill their destiny, and finally, the two on their death beds knowing how it all ends. When we see the duo in these forms, we can see that Reeves and Winter have actually matured as actors while at the same time showing how hard it was for them to get back into these characters after 25 years.
I’ll give this to some of the other characters too. Returning characters like the Princesses, Ted’s Father, and even Missy, all walk back into the roles and you can see that they just walked right back into these roles like they never left. I think a lot of that comes from the minimal usage of these characters in the film, so you don’t get too much time to notice if they really cared about the roles or if there was an actual effort put in. Grim Reaper is the top of the pile when it comes to this minimal use. Yes, I’ll bitch about him soon, but it was good to see Sadler back in the role like he never left it, and even his make up was a lot better this time around.
As for the legacy characters, aka the kids and Kelly, I know that they are going to be compared to their companions which will make it hard for them to really stand out. But given that Bill & Ted Face the Music is essentially made to promote these three characters to the front of everything to market to the teenage/twenty-something crowd, they do what they can with what is written. I guess that’s something?
Ok, here we go… Bill & Ted Face the Music isn’t the great nostalgic comedy thrill ride that a lot of reviewers are making it out to be. When it comes to the story, they basically took the best things about Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey and smashed them together and hoping people are snacking down on “remember berries” to notice that the plots are lifted from much better movies. The whole time-traveling to make a band is taken from both films, with the return to hell ripped somewhat from the second movie, then returning to the first film for the finale. Speaking of the finale, I know the girls had a journey of their own to help their Dads and they hand the credit off to them, but it feels like they didn’t really earn it because we had so much of the story focus on Bill & Ted failing as the “Great Ones” and also as husbands. I think if the focus was more on the girls and their journey it would make more sense and there would be a feeling that they actually earned the credit in the end, but instead Bill & Ted give up and say it was the girls all along, which feels like we just wasted most of the movie.
Speaking of waste of time, we have a sub-plot in Bill & Ted Face the Music where the Princesses get to meet up with their future selves and go through their lives to see if there is any future where they are happy with the choices they made since, in the current day, the Princesses are contemplating leaving the boys. We do get the see the couples pass each other in some of the future times, but we don’t get to see their side of things, and when they return to Bill & Ted in the finale, they decide that they are happy in this moment in time. Having no idea of what caused them to see this revelation really takes the moment and flush it down the shitter.
Another thing that feels rushed is the gathering of most of the band. In Excellent Adventure, we got to spend some time with each character that was brought into the group, we got to see what made them great and then we see them interacting with modern-day with some great results. What we get in Bill & Ted Face the Music is a small introduction to each of the musicians that get involved, some get a cool moment (Jimmy Hendrix playing Mozart’s “Piano Sonata No 16 in C major” on his guitar is an awesome mix of the two styles and a highlight for the music) and then they move on. We don’t get any interaction with the modern-day as we did back in the other films, and when we do, it’s brushed off in seconds to keep the collecting moving. Even once collected, there isn’t anything done with the characters till it’s time for the show, meaning they spend a little bit of time interacting and some time in hell doing nothing, then finally getting together under the kid’s control for the finale and suddenly making perfection after mere seconds of direction. It just doesn’t feel earned or entertaining. The worst thing though is what happens to Grim Reaper, the best part of Bogus Journey, he gets about 6 minutes of screen time total in the entire movie! He gets 2 minutes with Bill & Ted, then 3.5 minutes with the kids, and then 30 seconds in the finale. It’s a shame to see such a fan-loved character get wasted like that while the pointless time-traveling killer robot who develops emotions at the last minute gets over 30 minutes of screen time and a whole sub-plot dedicated to it!
Now here we go, the bit you’ve all been expecting. The kids… Yeah, I’m annoyed that when these characters were introduced in Bogus Journey that we clearly hear them called “Little Bill” and “Little Ted”, clearly names for BOYS, but when we see them in Bill & Ted Face the Music, we are told their names are Theodora “Thea” & Wilhelmina “Billie” respectively… And again, it makes no fucking sense! Ok, I’ll give Wilhelmina shortened to “Billie” as that’s correct in an English context, but where the fuck does you get “Ted” from Theodora!? I’ve checked every known variation in many languages and nothing comes close to “Ted”, sure “Thea” does show up on the list, but again there is no known relation between Theodora, Thea, and Ted!!
Naming conventions aside, we have the characters themselves. As I mentioned above, the girls are written to be lazy, music-obsessed, 1980s talking, GUYS! I’m sorry, there is no way on god’s green Earth that you are going to convince me that this role wasn’t originally written for a couple of male actors. From the way they speak to the clothes they wear, to the way they move, everything is written for a couple of MALE characters. Don’t try to tell me that girls spoke and acted that way in that era, I was there!, and no one I knew or saw in that era, especially females, did what these kids do… and that goes triple for 2020! In contrast, Kelly (the daughter of Rufus) actually looks and sounds like someone influenced by their father, but still acted as they are removed from their father. (Though the real Kelly Carlin got a cameo role, I think she should have played “herself” as Carlin’s daughter in the film) Thea and Billie are just carbon copies of their fathers, which would work if they were guys, but as girls, you can see how awkward and stupid the writing is for them, and I feel sorry for Lundy-Paine & Weaving who have to play them as they act far too good for such badly written roles.
Triumphant or Heinous?
I wanted to like Bill & Ted Face the Music, I really wanted to. However, once I sat down with my partner, who is also an avid Bill & Ted fan, and started watching the movie, I ended up falling asleep and she ended up playing games on her phone. When I woke up for the finale, I went back and rewatched what I missed and I ended up feeling glad that I slept through the last third of the film. Bill & Ted Face the Music is a movie that shows that working on nostalgia has run its course, the actors involved are too good for these type of parts and the writers had nothing original to do with the story at all, which is sad because going from Excellent Adventure to Bogus Journey was such a contrast and full of different ideas between the two films that they just became cult classics that worked for a good laugh in any age. Yet, Bill & Ted Face the Music us just a sad realization that this film was rushed, badly written, and marred by social pandering that it really ages the whole series into a bad mess.
I know I’m one of the few reviewers out there giving this movie a bad review for feeling dated and all that, and much like my Resident Evil 7 video game review, I’ll cop a lot of shit online for it, and I’m prepared for that. I’m sorry I couldn’t get caught up in the excitement of the nostalgia of two great cult characters coming back for one last shot, but in the end, all it made me want was Reeves to go back to filming John Wick 4 where his talent can shine once again, and not do a quick movie where he parodies all the memes made about him from the far superior other two movies. Sorry…. End!
In my humble and honest opinion, Bill & Ted Face The Music looks like someone wanting to pander to the “GenZ/Zoomer/Xennial” crowd to make their new “relateable” characters hip and cool by making fun of their parents, something that is very much going on in social media circles today. What were cult classic characters are now just walking memes, looking for a quick paycheck between much better projects. Nothing is fresh and new in this movie, it tries to take the best bits of the first two and smash them together to make something that seems new while going for the nostalgic dollar.
Look, I know 2020 has been tough and we’re looking for anything that is just a nice, happy, silly, stupid, turn-brain-off-and-enjoy experience so we can escape the constant barrage of crap thrown our way this year. This movie is the first new movie that has come out that is meant to be a big-budget blockbuster in the last 6 months, we’re desperate for anything to make us smile, so we give anything a change and get blinded by our need for happiness that we’ll let any shit movie side. That’s why you like this, that’s why it’s getting praised. But once we’re out of this depressive funk and year, history will show that this was not as great as we think it is… And I’ll be proven right.
- Nice to see the cast & writers reunite
- Decent make-up jobs on the “future” Bill & Teds
- Interesting use of historical musicians
- Rufus, just one more time (RIP George Carlin)
- Recycles the best from the first two movies and fails
- Death is given a glorified cameo
- The wives sub-plot has no purpose, explination or ending
- The kids are handed the whole ending for doing nothing