I think in today’s climate, we could all do with being excellent to one another. Bill & Ted Face the Music is the completely unexpected third entry into the late 80s and early 90s teen comedy series starring Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves. Directed by Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest and Fun with Dick and Jane fame, we’re reunited once more with Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves), as they’re tasked with saving the world from inevitable, time-related doom once more. The toll of adulthood has shown a lack of seriousness between the two, who now find themselves as family men, stuck in a loop of trying to live out their destiny, and balancing it with their responsibilities as parents.
We dive right into the lives of Bill and Ted, and they don’t seem to have mellowed out since their early days of time travelling exploitation. They’re joined at the hip, and it’s taking a major toll on their marriages, children and career. With the duo not quite uniting the world as they were destined for, they decide to call it quits on the band, until they realise time itself is starting to break down. We also follow Bill and Ted’s daughters, as they assemble a band that can save the world from total destruction. They rehash the collection of historical figures from the first in the series, but with a solely musical twist. Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, and Mozart all make their way through history, but the way this story unfolds feels more like a continually repetitive fetch quest than something as articulate and charming as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Modern CGI and graphical enhancements have been kind to the Bill & Ted series. Bigger budgets to flex often mean superior, grandiose work. Parisot’s work here does bring about a much larger scale, far greater than the first two of the series, but it doesn’t manage to make it greater than the first in the series on any level other than visual. Sure, the sets are impressive, the time travel is engaging, but I do believe there’s some charm in the shortcuts the first movie took in showcasing its time travel. There was a shroud of mystery surrounding it all, but now it’s boiled down to celebrity cameos, villainous other selves and back-tracking to the glory days.
It’s honestly rather charming on the whole, though, Reeves and Winter haven’t lost their comedic energy, and put it to full use in this third, and probably final encounter with the most excellent pair. Compared to the first two, there are obvious shortcomings, but Parisot and his cast adapt well to the changes, the modernity feels more like a feature rather than a hindrance. But its sudden end, and wholly rushed, underwhelming finale, really take the wind out of its sails. A most satisfactory conclusion to these characters, Bill & Ted Face the Music tries to showcase something for everyone, but it’s the titular characters that spark the most joy.