Bill & Ted Face the Music is not the most excellent adventure

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star in BILL TED FACE THE MUSIC. Photo Credit: Patti Perret / Orion Pictures
Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star in BILL TED FACE THE MUSIC. Photo Credit: Patti Perret / Orion Pictures /

Entirely inoffensive and at times genuinely funny, Bill & Ted Face the Music is a serviceable but not incredibly spectacular sequel.

Thirty years after Bill & Ted stumbled their way onto the big screen (and into the world’s hearts) with the instantly iconic and totally tubular Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter have reunited, reprising their roles as the titular Bill & Ted in Hollywood’s latest ’80s nostalgia cash-in, Bill & Ted Face the Music.

Catching up with Bill and Ted after 30 years have passed, the film sees the duo still attempting to write the song that will unite the world. However, after Kelly (Rufus’ daughter, played by Kristen Schaal) tells them that if they don’t write the song the entire universe will cease to exist, the stakes get astronomically higher, and the duo embarks on a time-traveling journey to find a future version of themselves that have written the song.

At the same time, Billie (Ted’s daughter, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Bill’s daughter, played by Samara Weaving) are on their own adventure, attempting to round up history’s greatest musicians (including Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Ling Lun, Mozart, and a prodigal drumming cavewoman) to form the band that will play the song once Bill and Ted write it. Oh, and did we mention that both groups are being chased by a killer robot named Dennis (Anthony Carrigan) who travels through time hunting them down and killing them like The Terminator?

It’s admittedly a hair-brained plot, but if you went into a Bill & Ted movie expecting for things to make sense, you walked into the wrong movie. On the whole, the narrative is basically just a vehicle for time-travel hijinks and Bill & Ted-isms, but it’s also interesting enough to keep us entertained and invested in the story.

The weaker of the two plots, surprisingly, is the one featuring the men themselves, Bill & Ted. While Alex Winter slides back into the role of Bill incredibly naturally, it’s a little bit harder to take Reeves seriously as Ted, just because of how big this star has grown and how much of a pop-culture icon he is. He isn’t bad in the role, per se, but next to Winter, his delivery is a little stiffer and a lot less believable.

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This means that the comedy doesn’t always land, and on top of that, the gimmick of Bill & Ted visiting progressively older and weirder versions of themselves trying to find the song gets fairly stale after a few instances. It’s not god awful, and there are some genuinely funny moments (including a great Dave Grohl cameo), but we would’ve hoped for a little more substance in the A plot of the movie, as opposed to Reeves and Winter in hokey wigs and makeup.

Another aspect to the film that we found rather flat was all of the future-centric plot-points — from the laughably bad green screen (we expected slightly more convincing effects from a veritable blockbuster like this) to the wishy-washy characterization of Kelly and her mother, The Great Leader (Holland Tyler), nothing about the future world really worked. And although Anthony Carrigan can do no wrong in our eyes, we didn’t find his robot Dennis particularly funny either. He’s a stellar comedic actor who deserved a better script to work off of.

On the other hand, however, we were pleasantly surprised by Thea and Billie’s storyline, which was incredibly charming, engaging, and helped greatly by Lundy-Paine and Weaving, who give it their all as Billie and Thea. Lundy-Paine in particular was a stroke of genius casting choice; they sport a haircut that’s nearly identical to the one Reeves had in the original film, and they match the cadence of Ted’s voice to a ‘T’. Both they and Weaving are very believable in their roles, which makes it that much easier to root for (and enjoy) their storyline as they hop through time collecting the world’s greatest musicians.

The film’s climax sees both father-daughter duos and their band of historical rockers (including Death playing bass) holding a doomsday concert that unites the world by getting every person across time to play the song in synchronicity. It’s a cute and sweet — if a little hokey — ending, and is undeniably feel-good, but a little anticlimactic. The film’s overall lack of stakes is probably why we feel the ending didn’t pack as much of a punch as we hoped it would, but it’s difficult to really suspend disbelief and think that Bill & Ted will actually fail, so we never found ourselves that invested in the film as a whole.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is a perfectly serviceable sequel with a hair-brained plot and jokes that don’t always land, but key performances from Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, and Brigette Lundy-Paine make the film worth watching.

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What’s your favorite ’80s movie? Is there a long-running franchise you’d like to see get a new installment? Sound off in the comments below.