The first two films of the Bill & Ted saga were released during a time of political turmoil and economic uncertainty. America was starting to face economic downturn, and internalising that the American Dream Hollywood so eagerly helped to sell in the past decade was mostly a facade.
The 1980s were about to die with a whimper. And then came William “Bill” Stanley Preston, Esq (Alex Winter) and his partner Theodore “Ted” Logan, two buffoonish teenagers from California who dream to unite the world with the power rock, as deluded as Beavis & Butt-head were.
But while their cartoon counterparts were depressing caricatures of 90s ennui, Bill and Ted’s optimism was infectious. They actively fought to save the world and proved to be better than us all.
30 years later little has changed in the town of San Dimas. The Wyld Stallyns (their power-rock band) failed to unite the world in song like as predicted. Bill and Ted, still trying to fulfil their destiny, live in a constant state of denial and arrested development to the chagrin of their wives, the 14-century Welsh princesses Joanna (Jayma Mays) and Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes), and the joy of their daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theodora (Australian actress Samara Weaving). The delay of the song to unite the world grabs the attention of the future civilisation, who rely on this prophecy and thus starts a new extraordinary quest to find what the song is in time to play it before time and universe folds.
So it’s like the first two films: a series of outlandish ideas, played with enough earnestness so not to become a parody. Every new revelation is as inventive and stupid as anything in the previous films, and I say with the utmost respect and admiration for the Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, the masterminds behind all three. Because Bill & Ted sounds on paper like a sugar-rush high of an eight-year old, and yet is done with the heart and imagination of great storytellers. In one scene, Jimi Hendrix duets with an astonished Mozart and I dare say that very few moments this year have left me with such a gleeful smile on my face.
I used to say that Bill & Ted were the best stupid movies made by the most intelligent people, and I stand by it even if it sounds like a backhanded compliment. It’s not. This third instalment proves that Solomon and Matheson knew what they were doing.
It has its flaws though. It slows down way too much in the middle, and there’s an entire sequence with Death (William Sadler) that goes for a bit too long, but it’s unfair to nitpick this film. Everything else is so truthful to its core. Winters and Reeves embrace the characters as if they have never left them, and played them brutally aware that they are not the young go-getters they used to be (the passing of time is the central theme of Face the Music if you didn’t get the clue in the title). The daughters are happy additions to the cast, and their adventure is at times more compelling. And then there’s the emotionally insecure killer robot (Anthony Carrigan) that steals the second half of the film. What is good about it is very good, and what isn’t we can easily forgive.
If you are a fan of Bill & Ted, then Face the Music is the perfect sequel for it brings back the real spirit of the original without reverting to cheap nostalgia tricks. If this is your first time in San Dimas, then it’ll probably be like watching an alien film in a language you think you understand but may not comprehend. Maybe, like 1989, we needed this kind of delight to balance the horrible year we’re collectively having. For all that is worth, it turned out to be a most bodacious sequel. Party on dudes.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is now showing in cinemas.