The first time I saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I was in 9th grade history class and the substitute teacher that day, instead of working, just put on this movie that we watched over the course of two days. (What a great feeling it was to walk in and see there was a substitute. Nothing of substance ever happened. It usually resulted in watching some sort of video, or literally “do whatever you want as long as it’s quiet.”) So that’s how I was introduced to Bill and Ted, the way a movie is supposed to be watched: on an old square cathode ray tube television, wheeled in on a cart with a matching VCR, as the kids behind me shot spit wads at my head. (I really only distinctly remember two videos we watched on a substitute day. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and, a year later, some movie about Julius Caesar. The only reason I remember it is because at one point in the movie, as the citizens of Rome pelted the streets with rotten vegetables, the substitute teacher paused the movie, said to the class, “Look, Caesar salad,” and started the movie again as the class groaned. What made this even more of a dud joke was it was obvious he had done that line a few times before. But, on the other hand, I still remember this, so I don’t know what to think.)
The weird thing about Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (which I actually saw in a theater instead of waiting for the Blue Springs, Missouri public school system to show it to me), is that they feel such a part of that era. It’s difficult to imagine a third Bill & Ted movie coming out in this era, and especially now. There’s something so innocent about Bill Preston, Esq (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) that a part of me doesn’t even want to know what’s going on in their lives right now. At this point, I just assume it’s bad.
In other words: I can’t believe Bill & Ted Face the Music actually exists. (And when you listen to the filmmakers and actors involved, who have been trying to get this movie made for over a decade, it sounds like they can’t quite believe it either.) The thing is, it’s been so long since the last installment (29 years), this movie really could really have been anything. This could have easily been a “dark and gritty” Bill & Ted. Thankfully, it’s still just pretty much Bill and Ted from the other two movies, just now they are adults.
Bill and Ted, now married, each with a daughter (Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine) are both having midlife crisis moments. They experienced success as Wyld Stallyns, but nothing approaching the song to save humanity that was prophesized. And even the success they did experience is long gone, as Bill and Ted are relegated to playing Ted’s brother’s wedding, and doing a pretty bad job of that. After a visit with Kelly, a woman from the future (Kristen Schaal, playing the daughter of George Carlin’s Rufus from the first two films), Bill and Ted decide to go into the future to steal the song from their future selves. At the same time, their daughters go back in time to put together a band filled with some of the greatest musicians in history. This sets off a fairly madcap and tight (the film clocks in at just over 90 minutes) adventure as Bill and Ted keep having to chase their future selves. But like in the other two movies, Bill and Ted are both just so nice that it’s impossible not to start rooting for them.
Frankly, there’s not a whole lot to this movie, but if you’ve watched the other two installments lately, that’s kind of the charm. It would be kind of weird to all of a sudden switch to some mort of semi-serious, high concept movie all of a sudden (well, beyond time travel, the notion of literally fighting yourself, and saving humanity). I happened to rewatch Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure just a few days before Bill & Ted Face the Music and they feel a lot like the same movie. Which is both remarkable and, maybe, a little jarring to people expecting something a bit slicker. Which is why I’m curious what the reaction to this movie will be (as I sit here and write a reaction). I suspect fans of the original two movies will be pretty happy (at least those fans who have watched the originals lately and aren’t remembering on, maybe, faulty nostalgia) because this one incorporates a very similar tone and style. People watching this movie without seeing the other two (first of all … why?), something tells me they won’t know quite what to make of these two well-meaning, earnest nitwits who still use a lot of slang that was popular in the late 1980s. But, as someone who has seen the original two movies and thinks of them fondly (spit wads aside), I actually had a pretty great time watching this movie and couldn’t help thinking maybe we all could learn a thing or two about being earnest and nice from Bill and Ted.
‘Bill and Ted Face The Music’ will be available to stream via VOD on August 28th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.