Writers: Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal
Despite a previous prophecy saying that rockers Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) would unite the world with their music, they are now both middle-aged dads with a dwindling music career. However, they are soon informed that they must compose a new song that will save life on earth as we know it, but instead of writing it they decide to travel to the future and steal it from their older selves. Meanwhile their young daughters (Samara Weaving & Brigette Lundy-Paine) devise their own musical time travelling scheme to help their fathers.
Of all the many remakes and sequels that the mainstream film industry produces these days, I must admit that I never expected them to make any kind of sequel to Bill & Ted. Those of us of a certain vintage will have extremely fond and nostalgic memories of both the excellent adventure and subsequent bogus journey that these two characters had, but would have surely been very wary of them trying to recreate the magic almost three decades later.
The good news is that the result is very much a success – within context. I think it is fair to say that we will admit that as much as we all may have great affection for the two Bill and Ted films and find them to be very enjoyable escapism, they were certainly not exactly cinematic masterpieces. Well, thankfully Face the Music seems to acknowledge this fact and very much carries on singing from the same hymn sheet without ever aiming for any unachievable high notes, focussing predominantly on what was so good about the first two films without ever setting itself unrealistic or unachievable goals.
The wyld stallions are of course no longer the youthful and naïve budding rock stars of the previous films, but are now instead middle aged and naïve budding rock stars, as their careers are still yet to achieve the heights predicted in the previous films – though that does involve uniting humanity, and despite his constant demonstration of hubris, not even Bono has managed that!
As our two musical heroes travel through time to try and acquire the song that will unite humanity from their future selves, it does produce some very enjoyable scenes as they bump into their own various future selves – who are all extremely different due to the increasing failures of the two of them. However, the theme of not being able to achieve one’s initial dreams and ambitions is actually quite a pertinent one, and certainly one many of us can relate to, and though Bill and Ted deal with it in their usual characteristic way, within the narrative there is a genuine amount of melancholy and acceptance of ones own unrealised ambitions and dreams. This being a Bill & Ted film it is often dealt with silly humour, but there is an underlying sense of tragedy to the two protagonists that anyone over a certain age that never quite achieved their dreams (i.e. pretty much all of us) can relate to.
The writers of the two original films, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon also pen Face the Music and they deserve credit for keeping the formula of what made the first two such great fun, but also by evolving the film by not only accepting that the two titular protagonists may actually be failures, but also by allowing a lot of the film to be about their daughters – adding a refreshing element to the story.
The two daughters are very much female reincarnations of their fathers and though their own story is not a million miles away from what happened in Excellent Adventure, they are certainly more than just caricatures and add a required energy and freshness to the narrative. While Brigette Lundy-Paine successfully captures the essence of the character more than Samara Weaving does, they are both great to watch, and their own story is not only tremendous fun to watch, but it produces a very satisfying arc to the overall narrative – after all, what is not fun about forming a band that includes Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Mozart? Some of the supporting characters are also great fun, especially a killer robot from the future who turns out to be called Dennis Caleb McCoy and of course, William Sadler returning as Death. The film’s opening wedding scene in which the permutations from ‘Missy’ now marrying Ted’s brother are very funny – this is one of the moments that make an enjoyable reference to the previous films. The more eagle-eyed viewer will also notice plenty of eater eggs lurking in the background of scenes.
Of course Face the Music is far from perfect; the time travel ‘rules’ that it embraces make Tenet seem painfully simple and the fact that the two main protagonists are not the most finely tuned guitar strings allows the slim running time to be filled by them constantly explaining the plot to one-another, but then these were of course also the flaws in the previous two films. Face the Music is of course no masterpiece, and in all fairness, all involved know that it could never be one, but fans of the first two Bill & Ted films will not be disappointed.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is not only one of the more surprising sequels of recent times, but also one of the most satisfying in that it manages to recreate the spirit of the originals by mainly sticking to the same for formula and just adding some minor tweaks; the result is a thoroughly enjoyable (and certainly less than perfect) film, but one that will not disappoint the fans of the previous two films.