Film Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music
Directed by Dean Parisot. US, 2020, 92 minutes.
Available on video-on-demand platforms.
I’m sure everyone’s leaned into their worst vices, quit them, then settled comfortably back into them during quarantine. Enter Bill & Ted Face the Music, a completely unnecessary but winsome enough entry in the Southern California dude saga that’s as comforting as our bad teenage habits. The lovable weedless stoners are back to rescue the universe and, even if one of them seems unable to shake the fear of God from his eyes—maybe indulging some might help?—the duo still delivers on their lighthearted promise of goofy escapism.
Now deep into middle age, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are reminded of their failure to save humanity through music by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of the Great Leader (RIP George Carlin), and are given an ultimatum to do so before the collapse of “reality as we know it.” Pressed for time, they enlist history’s biggest hitmakers—Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Mozart (Daniel Dorr), and Kid Cudi (himself) among them—to compose this earth-saving song (spoiler: It sounds like a FIFA World Cup anthem).
Burnout antics ensue; you better believe that at one point Bill and Ted run blindly in circles with buckets on their heads. Screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who also wrote the first two films, don’t stray much from their proven formula, and director Dean Parisot is content to let their simple story run its course. The film is shamelessly nostalgic in its humor, though not in its appearance; Parisot has updated the classic time-traveling phone booth to some sort of Apple x Goop yonic collab, and polishes the rest of the film into a lazily “clean” look.
Then again, if Reeves’ Ted is what “growing up” looks like, the request might have to be withdrawn. Two decades of dodging slo-mo bullets in the Matrix series (1999-) and spraying them all over the John Wick universe (2014-) seems to have taken a psychic toll on the actor. Gone is his contagiously dopey smile from the original films, replaced with a barely concealed anguish that, granted, suits his character’s current state but is light years away from the franchise’s trademark silliness. Reeves does let loose playing different Teds across parallel realities, though, particularly a jacked jailbird nega-version of himself.
Ted’s existential despair aside, the main issue might be that Kid Cudi doesn’t play Jimi Hendrix even though the role is right there and would’ve given him a chance to create a character, rather than what the script has him doing instead: another tired celebrity self-parody complete with inexplicable knowledge of the time-space conundrums at hand. (Sidenote: What is it about this cliche? When did we decide a celebrity appearance wasn’t enough to justify itself, and begin needing some pseudo-meta-intelligence from our favs? I digress…)
Whether the bros return for another adventure is to be determined (and probably unwise), but their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) are ripe for the undertaking. Lundy-Paine’s performance, intensely committed to the film’s scatterbrained humor, nicely updates the original’s dude-bro radness diction for the 21st-century set. Other supporting performances from Kristen Schaal, Jayma Mays, and Jillian Bell—three incredibly funny women—are wasted in roles that have no idea what to do with their singular personas. To that, I say bring on Billie and Thea’s next adventure, if and only if it focuses on them—the way the previous films gave Bill and Ted complete reign over their narratives. [★★★]