It’s fair to say that the world’s a mess right now. I doubt anyone would argue with that statement, and I don’t need to tell you why. Perhaps that’s why, as society threatens to crash and burn around us, we need movies more than ever. Specifically, we need Bill & Ted Face the Music. The belated third instalment in the cult series is a wondrous delight from start to finish and serves as a truly perfect escape from reality.
Face the Music is set 25 years after Bogus Journey and sees Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, reprising their roles from the first films) as middle-aged parents who have still been unable to write the infamous song that will unite the world. When a herald from the future arrives to inform them that reality is collapsing around them, they steal a time machine and visit their own future selves to find the song that will save all of reality. Meanwhile, their daughters Billie and Thea (series newcomers Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine) take a time machine of their own to find the best musicians from history to perform the track.
As wild as that brief summary is, it doesn’t at all do justice to just how bonkers Face the Music is in its entirety. The film is a total hoot; it has an excellent sense of its own identity and what fans want from a third film and leans into it beautifully. All of Bill and Ted’s mannerisms are completely intact, and seeing them on the big screen is such a joy it feels like they’ve never been away.
Winter and Reeves are clearly having the time of their lives reprising these roles. Their boundless enthusiasm is utterly infectious – I walked out of the cinema with my cheeks aching because I hadn’t stopped grinning for the past hour and a half. Every ‘whoa!’, every utterance of ‘excellent!’, every little tick about Bill and Ted that we’ve come to know and love feels warm and safe, like coming home to a warm hug by a roaring fire at the end of a difficult day. The pair effortlessly slip into their shoes again and breath wonderful life into Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon’s already-excellent dialogue to give Bill and Ted not just life, but purpose. Because not only is Face the Music about saving reality, but it’s about Bill and Ted saving themselves.
Of course, it would be wrong for me to focus solely on Bill and Ted when it’s really Billie and Thea who are the focus of the film in many ways. As such: the casting of Weaving and Lundy-Paine is absolutely perfect. The characters of Billie and Thea are as wonderful as the rest of the film, but they were also who I, personally, connected with the most. This is no slight against any of the other characters, because Billie and Thea are excellent surrogates for those of us in the audience who weren’t around for the original releases of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, but have seen them in the years since. Their sense of awe and wonder at seeing a time machine, or meeting Jimi Hendrix or Louis Armstrong or Mozart is exactly what we in the audience feel in the same moment. The duo are very much their fathers’ daughters, and it’s hard not to be overcome with emotion at seeing them step into their fathers’ shoes towards the end of the film.
And those emotions are central to the successes of Face the Music; there’s a big focus on ideas of legacy, purpose, and passing the baton to the next generation. For all its wacky time travel conceits, insecure killer robots named Dennis Caleb McCoy (an excellent turn from Barry’s Anthony Carrigan), or the welcome return of William Sadler as swingball-loving, bass-playing Death, it’s ultimately a film about coming together in times of need for the good of everyone. Accepting that we all need to play our part to save the world – is a message (within a film) that we all sorely need right now, and what better way to have it delivered?
It’s so wonderful to spend time with these characters after nearly thirty years away from them, and everyone involved is clearly having a ball. This unending enthusiasm lends Face the Music much of its charm. It’s a film overflowing with sweetness, optimism and pure, unfiltered happiness that you’d be remiss not to be swept up in its embrace and cry tears of joy at the final act. It’s hard to say if it will hold up as well as the first two films, but right now it’s irrelevant. I’m still on such a high from the experience of it that things like some spotty visual effects or the breakneck pacing that might bother me in another film don’t matter here. We’re in dire need of something to bring us together right now, and Bill & Ted Face the Music is just what the doctor ordered.
Face the Music is exactly the film the world needs right now. With its unending wit, hope, love, and earnest message of unity, it could not have arrived at a better time. Sorry Tenet, but Bill and Ted haven’t just saved reality – they’ve saved cinema.
Words by Matt Taylor