As someone who has probably watched the first two Bill & Ted films hundreds of times at this point in her life, Bill & Ted Face the Music was absolutely everything I was hoping it would be, and then nothing I could have ever possibly expected. It’s just an absolutely beguiling cinematic experience that does a wonderful job of taking elements of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey that we all know and love, and blending them into this new story that takes our beloved Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in new, unexpected directions, all while introducing us to some new characters that you can’t help but fall in love with along the way. Suffice to say, I found Bill & Ted Face the Music to be a real delight and it was exactly the kind of movie-watching experience that I needed right about now.
Face the Music catches us up with everyone’s favorite time traveling duo from San Dimas nearly three decades after the events of Bogus Journey, where Bill and Ted have experienced their fair share of struggles over the years, and still haven’t fulfilled their destiny of creating the one song that would help unite the universe. Their wives (Jayma Mays, Erinn Hayes) are beginning to have their doubts about their husbands, but Bill and Ted’s daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), revere their dads and have fully embraced their musical ways as well.
While Bill and Ted are in full-blown crisis mode over their lack of achievements, they are confronted by and then whisked away to the future by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), who brings them to meet with The Great Leader (Holland Taylor). They learn that the clock is ticking for the time-space continuum and they have approximately 78 minutes to come up with their ultimate song before everything and everyone they know (and don’t know) will cease to exist forever. No pressure, right? So Bill and Ted decide to head off to find future versions of themselves in search of this fabled song, but along the way, they come to realize that their destinies were already right there in front of them in the present, and that their purpose on this planet, and as musicians, is so much more than they could have anticipated.
Truth be told, there’s so much more I want to say about what happens in Face the Music, but as someone who has adored these first two films for so long now, a big part of the joy of watching this third film were all those discoveries and surprises, and I do not want to ruin that experience for anyone else out there. That being said, what I enjoyed most about this latest Bill & Ted is for as fun as it is, and how it brought back certain feelings of nostalgia for this writer, there is something quite lovely about the message of Face the Music that is a hugely emotional component of the narrative: what is a legacy and how do you define your own legacy?
The legacy of these characters has been engrained in pop culture now for over 30 years and I think it’s interesting how writers Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, in a way, pretty much recontextualize everything we know about Bill and Ted here, and it really works to the benefit of the characters and the story as a whole, too. It doesn’t erase anything that we’ve come to know and love from the Bill & Ted movies, either—so do not worry, purists—but I do think what they have created here actually enhances those aspects a great deal, even more so in a very thoughtful and meaningful way.
I’ll be the first to admit that coming into Face the Music, I was pretty much all in just to see Winter and Reeves reprise their roles (and they’re as good as ever in this one), but I love that somewhere along the way, I came to admire their daughters and was just as invested in their own separate storyline as well. Of course, a big part of that comes from the performances from Weaving and Lundy-Paine, who come across as very nuanced in their respective roles here. But both Matheson and Solomon do a wonderful job of giving them their own sense of agency in Face the Music, and I really enjoyed how their arc comes together in the finale.
Something else that I really appreciated about Face the Music is that, for the first time, I really feel like the Princesses (aka Bill & Ted’s wives) also have their own storyline as well, and while I would have liked to have seen more from their own adventures, I thought it was wonderful how they really come into their own as characters here. William Sadler is also returning to the fold in Face the Music, reprising his role as Death, and he’s also another character that feels even more fleshed out in this third film, and he was just a total and complete joy to watch.
Beyond delivering up an entertaining time travel romp, what I’ve always enjoyed about the Bill & Ted films is that in their own unique ways, they act as celebrations of music and the power of that medium to be able to unite us all, regardless of our backgrounds, languages, or where we come from. That message in particular has never resonated as greatly as it does in Face the Music, culminating in a finale that left a big smile on my face (but also made me tear up a bit, too—I’m just a big softie, I guess). If it sounds like I’m being slightly ambiguous here, that’s by design, but I feel like longtime fans of these films will most likely share in that sentiment as well.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention director Dean Perisot and his contributions to Face the Music, as there’s a genuine sense of affection that comes through in every scene and every character interaction, and there’s an energy to this film that felt very reminiscent of Galaxy Quest, which is another project of his that I absolutely adore. Even though he’s essentially a newcomer to this world and these characters, Perisot clearly has an understanding of what has always made the Bill & Ted films such a standout to fans, and he’s done a great job with taking the directorial reins for this third film in the series.
As a whole, I don’t think I could have possibly loved Bill & Ted Face the Music any more than I did, and I’m genuinely appreciative as a fan that everyone came together after all this time to give us this wonderfully kind-hearted film that feels exactly what the world is in desperate need of at the moment. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the opening scene of Face the Music is easily the hardest I’ve laughed all year, and that initial glee I felt during those moments carried through until the film’s uproariously fun credits, and it just filled me with non-stop joy. I can’t wait to revisit this one again and again (and again) in the future.
Movie Score: 4.5/5