Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure came out the year after I was born, and I’ve watched it every year of my life since. Even though, in a controversial stance, I prefer Bogus Journey, both of the movies have been a huge part of my life since before I can remember. Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey are among the few things that I remember sharing with both my parents, and both take the even rarer place of movies that I can still enjoy after their brutal separation. Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and reluctant adulthood, I’ve been accompanied by these delightful goofballs, and it’s been both an honor and privilege.
So it was with great joy and (weirdly) zero trepidation that I headed off to Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre to watch Excellent Adventure and a secret second movie that ended up being the latest entry in the franchise: Dean Parisot’s Bill & Ted Face the Music. As I bask in the emotional glow of the sweetest movie of 2020, I’m delighted to report it was most non-heinous.
There’s a purity and magic to Bill and Ted, to their dedicated friendship that is never tested or betrayed and exists solely as a great thing in both their lives. It’s a rare example of male platonic love on screen and also just a delightful example of the power of friendship. Their love of music is the only thing that comes close and, even though I’m utterly illiterate when it comes to anything to do with music, I spent years dreaming of learning how to play “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II” simply because I wanted to be like the band that saved the world. That thread is key to Face the Music; 25 years later, the slackers haven’t written the song, and more importantly only have 77 minutes to compose it and save the universe.
Fear not, though, as this time Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) aren’t alone. Even though Reeves and Winter’s charming duet is at the heart of the film, Face the Music‘s secret weapons are Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Bill and Ted’s adult children. Lundy-Paine is a powerhouse who imbues every whoa and indubitably with a sense of wonder and sweetness that would make their on-screen father proud. Weaving has already proven her strength as an action heroine and comedy talent. Here, the two play off each other and create a friendship just as special as the one that sparked off the spectacularly silly sci-fi franchise 31 years ago.
With their fathers taken to the future to be held accountable for their failings, Billie (Lundy Paine) and Thea (Weaving) decide to take matters into their own hands. In a cute callback to Excellent Adventure, we follow the pair as they travel through history to collect the greatest musicians in the world to help their dads play the song that will save the universe. I loved a lot about Face the Music, especially their ideas about who the most important musicians in the world were. It seems like a low bar to set, but to see Louis Armstrong and Jimi Hendrix depicted—plus actor Patty Anne Miller playing stone age Wyld Stallyns drummer Grom—feels quietly radical as we so often see Black musicians and their impact ignored in film (and even written out of history entirely in certain time travel movies). I also have to shout out Kid Cudi, who plays himself in an incredibly fun turn as a temporal quantum expert.
Despite taking place and being made over three decades after their first outing, Face the Music immediately feels like a Bill & Ted movie. Aesthetically and tonally it’s clear to see that the same crew is behind this delightful film, especially when it comes to an impressive amount of practical effects and sets. Reeves and Winter give performances so natural that you never think anything other than, “Oh yeah, that’s Bill and Ted.” Writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon do a great job at light touch meta-recognition of their lead duo’s ridiculous relationship without ever losing the sincerity that makes the film feel so wholesome and enjoyable.
2020 has been a trial and we all need a little lightness in our lives. Bill & Ted Face the Music offers up not only nostalgia and plenty of laughs, with Reeves and Winter having a whole bunch of fun playing themselves throughout time, but also a legitimate message of hope. It’s a story about families who love each other, friendships that transcend space and time, loving dads, the power of music, and young women saving the world and having fun while doing it.
Over my 32 years in life I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like Bill & Ted—only people who haven’t seen the films yet. There’s a universality to the unending optimism and sweetness at their heart that has made the movies something that has connected me to some of the most important people in my life and given me something to talk about with people I barely know. Bill & Ted Face the Music is a beautiful ending to the story that began in 1989 but that will also surely inspire an entirely new generation of Bill & Ted fans looking for hopeful heroes.
Featured Image: Orion Pictures