For the past three decades, the famous movie characters known simply as ‘Bill and Ted’ have endeared with original and even newer 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-tier cohort of Robert Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future” (1985), but it 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 like “Caddyshack 2” (1988) or any of the “Airplane!” (1980) sequels — not good and incredibly unfunny. But instead of being redundant or lazy, Pete Hewitt’s “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991) went 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 later 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.
Right 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 the first sequel? Well, I think it might depend on the viewer. As someone who was never a big Bill & Ted buff growing up, with my first viewing of “Excellent Adventure” being in high school and my intro to “Bogus Journey” only recently viewed 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 its predecessors, making this a rare instance where a sequel, produced over a decade later, isn’t along the lines of “Zoolander 2” (2016).
Bill & Ted’s latest odyssey will be most appreciated by the series’ fans, and probably some casual viewers too. If there’s one thing that didn’t fully work for me with “Face the Music it’s that I didn’t laugh out loud at any point on my first viewing, as I did with “Excellent Adventure” and “Bogus Journey,” except for maybe the post-credits bonus scene.
The new epic romp isn’t exactly mind-blowing or brilliant, but it’s amusing enough to end the driest summer movie season so far in history.