BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC movie poster | ©2020 Orion Pictures

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC movie poster | ©2020 Orion Pictures

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Payne, William Sadler, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jemma Mays, Holland Taylor, Hal Landon Jr., Kid Cudi, Jillian Bell
Writers: Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon
Director: Dean Parisot
Distributor: Orion Pictures
Release Date: August 28, 2020

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC is, as its title suggests, a follow-up to 1989’s BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, and its 1991 sequel, BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY. Writers/creators Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon are back for the latest go-round, as are Alex Winter as Bill Preston and Keanu Reeves as Ted Logan.

What’s also back, happily, is the tone of sweetness that pervades the material. Those who’ve seen the first two films will remember that Bill and Ted are best friends, a pair of music-loving teens from San Dimas, California (an actual place, not unlike its depiction in these films). The boys are perhaps not the brightest, but their loyalty to each other is unshakeable. Their motto is “Be excellent to each other,” and they try to live by it.

In their earlier adventures, Bill & Ted traveled through time and space in a phone booth (shades of DOCTOR WHO), wound up bringing a pair of fifteenth-century princesses into the present, and were prophesied to one day write a song that would unite the world.

In BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC, it’s twenty-five years later. In the interim, Bill has married Princess Joanna (Jemma Mays) and Ted has wed Princess Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes). Each of the couples has a daughter: Bill and Joanna are the parents of Theodora (Samara Weaving), and Ted and Elizabeth are dad and mom to Billie (Brigette Lundy-Payne). Both of the offspring adore and emulate their fathers, to the extent that they talk, dress, and love music just like Bill & Ted.

Bill and Ted had incredible rock stardom with their band, Wyld Stallyns (sic), but the heyday ended, the band broke up (we find out more about that later). Now the boys are reduced to playing weddings and motel restaurants – and they’re still trying to write that song.

Unknown to them, there’s a cosmic deadline on that musical number. All of time and space depends on that song – unless it actually depends on something darker. Bill and Ted once more wind up hurtling across the years in their mission to save everything.

The good news is that what could have gone wrong in a million different ways is actually funny. Dean Parisot, who directed similarly delicate material in GALAXY QUEST, once more finds humor in heart, and vice-versa. There are a lot of jokes zinging around BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC, but the main one is the bond between the now-middle-aged boys. Their unquestioning devotion to each other is so complete as to be funny in itself, but the filmmakers and the actors never mock it. It winds up being touching, and it’s so thorough that it’s also hilarious.

Winter and Reeves fall right back into their characters as though they just played them yesterday. The supporting cast is terrific. Weaving and Lundy-Payne are especially notable. Weaving has her own take on playing someone who is essentially an ‘80s teenage boy, and Lundy-Payne has an uncanny take on Reeves’s Ted without doing a full-on imitation. Kristen Schaal and Holland Taylor score as people who are not from around these parts. William Sadler wonderfully reprises his BOGUS JOURNEY role, and Kid Cudi plays himself as a philosophical savant. There is also a warm homage to the late George Carlin, who played Bill and Ted’s previous guide to the universe.

BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC gets extra credit for coming up with a clever solution to the seemingly impossible challenge of the song. Mostly, it’s gentle and silly and delightful. Those who enjoy it should sit through the end credits for the bonus tag scene.

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