By Megan Bianco
For the past three decades, the famous movie characters known as simply “Bill and Ted” have endeared both original and new-generation fans of their sci-fi comedies.
What began as Stephen Herek’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989 might have been considered a lesser knockoff of Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future (1985), but grew to hold its own as a cult classic. The sleeper hit had the time travel logic of Future, combined with the tone of a John Hughes teen flick—not in the least, Weird Science (1985).
When a sequel was greenlit only two years later, the follow-up could have very easily gone the way of most sequels to popular goofy comedies a la Caddyshack 2 (1988) or any of the Airplane! (1980) sequels, i.e. not good and incredibly unfunny. But instead of being redundant or lazy, Pete Hewitt’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) went in the complete opposite direction and became bizarrely entertaining and surprisingly existential.
Now, nearly thirty years later and a decade in the making, a third installment is upon us in the form of Dean Parisot’s Bill & Ted Face the Music.
After their first two adventures—which included a time-traveling phone booth, meeting some of the world’s biggest historical figures, and visiting the afterlife—Bill Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) are now middle-aged, out-of-work and each on the verge of divorce. Just when the lifelong BFFs are at a loss as to what to do, Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their former time-travel mentor Rufus (previously played by George Carlin), randomly pops up to inform Bill and Ted that they need to save the universe by composing the greatest song ever written.
So now, 29 years after Bogus Journey was released, how does Face the Music compare to its previous successors? Well, I think it might depend on the viewer. As someone who was never a big Bill and Ted buff growing up, with my first viewing of Excellent Adventure being in high school and my intro to Bogus Journey only recently in preparation for the new film, I was just fine with Face the Music.
What’s great about these movies is that not only do Reeves and Winter consistently return as the leads, but so do the original screenwriters, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Face the Music has all the same themes, atmosphere, characteristics and spirit of the originals, making this a rare instance where a sequel produced over a decade later isn’t along the lines of Zoolander 2 (2016).
Bill and Ted’s latest odyssey will be most appreciated by the series’ fans, but probably by some new viewers as well. If there’s one thing that didn’t fully work for me, it’s that I didn’t laugh out loud at any point on first viewing as I did with Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, except for maybe the post-credits bonus scene.
This new epic romp isn’t exactly mind blowing or brilliant, but it’s amusing enough to end the driest summer movie season in history.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.