It’s been 24 years since Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves starred as their signature characters, Bill and Ted. The duo surprised audiences and critics with their ’80s teen sci-fi comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which was initially shelved for two years before its 1989 release date. Studios released the somewhat darker and weirder sequel “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” two years later, and the franchise fell into cult nostalgia as both actors pursued different career paths.
After decades in and out of development, finally, the third installment has come together, bringing back Reeves and Winter, along with the original writers and creators of the franchise, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon.
As was originally conceived in the earlier installments, the future of the universe waits on Bill and Ted’s garage band Wyld Stallyns to write the perfect song that’s supposed to unite the world. Having bankrupted the band and losing core members to creative differences, the two find themselves working weddings and small clubs intending to eventually write their opus. As time continues to pass, leaders from their utopian future force the pair onto solitude to write the song as soon as possible before all of space and time collapse. The best plan they can come up with is to hijack a time machine and travel to the exact moment they wrote the perfect song and steal it from themselves.
Concurrently, their princess wives wait for them to return to a marriage counseling session, their daughters Thea and Billie (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine) are close behind on their mission, and the whole group is stalked by a killer robot named Dennis (Anthony Carrigan).
I’m not sure what kind of expectations fans still had for this movie universe, but with the streaming release of this film, along with a limited drive-in theater run, the consensus seems to be one of elation and satisfaction, and it’s easy to see why. These characters, while dopey and comedically broad, are overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. Their motto “be excellent to each other” rings particularly loud this year when things have been especially dark and doom-laden in our everyday existence. As with the preceding films, the humor here ranges from slapstick and obvious sight gags to niche references and clever plotting that suggests an elevated sensibility.
Reeves and Winter comfortably slide back into their roles and age them appropriately, without leaning too hard on middle-aged dad jokes to carry the adventure. Weaving and Lundy-Paine as their daughters begin the film awkwardly doing their best Bill & Ted impressions, but as the film goes on, they blend into the ensemble.
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” fumbles the ending in a mishmash of CGI nonsense, and there are some gags that fall flat, but this far-too-late sequel is much better than it needs to be. There is plenty of references to the other films, so you may want to bone up on your B&T lore by renting the whole trilogy and watching them in succession. That said, I could think of worse ways of spending a weekend.
Cassidy Robinson is a former Idaho State University student with a master’s degree in film studies from Orange County’s Chapman University. He is currently working as a media journalist in Los Angeles, California.