This week, Bill & Ted Face the Music arrives in UK cinemas. The movie – a long awaited sequel to the Bill & Ted movies of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s – sees Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise the title roles for yet another adventure through time.
As with the majority of movies released in 2020, this one has had to contend with COVID-19. So, while Bill & Ted Face the Music arrives in cinemas (and cinemas only) in mid-September in the UK, in the US the film made its debut at the end of August in cinemas and through video-on-demand.
I must point out the reason Bill & Ted Face the Music also went the VOD route in the US is due to the sheer number of closed cinemas in the States – it has nothing to do with the quality of the movie. Had we not been in the midst of a global pandemic, everyone around the world would have been enjoying this in movie in theatres as originally intended.
And I will say this now, I want to emphasise the “enjoying this” part of my last sentence. Bill & Ted Face the Music is a thoroughly enjoyable movie, which retains the same level of fun that existed in its predecessors, while delivering a story that still works for today’s audience.
That story sees Bill & Ted forced to travel through once again, in order to save all of existence. It has been decades since the events of the last movie, and while Bill & Ted’s music was supposed to create a utopian society, things haven’t worked out as planned and now all of reality is doomed.
In order to stop the oncoming apocalypse, the eponymous heroes must write and perform a song which will unite the world. The only problem is, the clock is ticking and the pair have writer’s block.
Travelling through time they meet up with different versions of themselves, in the hope that at some point in time, they will have penned a reality-saving track. But they soon discover, it will take more than just meeting up with future Bill & Teds to achieve their goal; they also need help from friends and family if they are ever to save the day.
I must admit, going into this movie I had reservations. I remember loving the Bill & Ted movies when I was a kid, and I used to watch the Saturday morning cartoon too; but that was a long time ago, and I can’t say I have revisited the films or the cartoon since my youth.
As characters, Bill & Ted felt very much a product of their time, and I wasn’t entirely convinced they needed a revival. Plus, the last entry was Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey which was released in 1991 – that was 29 years ago! Would this still hold up?!
Films that receive long overdue sequels can go either way and this worried me. For every Blade Runner 2049 (2017) or The Force Awakens (2015), there’s an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) or *shudder* a Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001).
Reviving an old franchise is hard work, and it takes careful planning and passion. It also needs the audience to buy into the property once again – including convincing long-time fans to care enough about what is being offered.
And more importantly, in the case of Bill & Ted it requires Winter and Reeves – two actors in their mid-50s – to return to characters that were last seen in their teens/early 20s. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their schtick back in the ‘90s, but could I really cope with the ‘California surfer’ vibe now I’m nearing *gulp* 40?
The good news is that my fears quickly subsided, because as soon as Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves appeared on screen, it was as if they had never stopped playing Bill & Ted. They picked the characters back up without missing a beat, updated them to make them age appropriate, and I found myself on board.
A big win. But that nagging feeling still didn’t go away. The actors/characters were back but would the story hold up?
At first, I was unsure, and initially I thought this tale about saving reality sounded paper thin. But as the story progressed, and new wrinkles were added into the mix, I found myself getting more and more involved in the adventure.
How involved? Well, I smiled, I laughed, I really enjoyed what I was watching, and then something very unexpected happened.
As the film entered into the final act, I found myself getting a little emotional. Yep, I got a little teary-eyed watching a Bill & Ted movie.
The reason I got emotional is because the film’s central message is about unity – and about different people, from different walks of life, putting aside their differences and coming together. To paraphrase Bill & Ted, it is about being “excellent to one another”.
Watching this film in 2020, in a practically empty cinema, in a world that has become increasingly divided, I couldn’t help but feel Bill & Ted Face the Music was putting out an important message. 2020 has been an incredibly tough year for everyone, and at times it appears that it isn’t getting better, but amongst all the noise, the negativity, the seemingly hopeless situations, there are still good people and good stories breaking through which highlight hope and positivity.
In fact, as with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Journey (1989), and the aforementioned Bogus Journey, this is a very positive, very likeable movie. It understands its audience and repackages the fun-loving spirit of the original films to appeal to late 30-year-olds/early 40-year-olds who need a little hope right now.
Along the way, it introduces new characters – including Bill & Ted’s delightful daughters, as played to perfection by Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving – and brings back old faces. And yes, one of those old faces is Death, who is once again played by William Sadler, and is once again hilarious.
Sadler never misses a beat in his limited screen time, but it is Lundy-Paine and Weaving who are the real stars of this movie. They shine in every scene they feature in and pave the way for a potential sequel based purely on their characters – which I would totally watch.
I went into the cinema expecting a passable movie, and I came out pleasantly surprised. Bill & Ted Face the Music doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does provide 91 minutes of solid entertainment.
Will it be a box office smash in the UK? Sadly, I don’t believe so. Those who didn’t grow up with Bill & Ted will probably not be so fussed about watching this movie, and audiences are still giving cinemas a wide berth; but for those who do venture out, Face the Music won’t disappoint.
This year, we should have seen a wealth of movies, including Black Widow, Wonder Woman ’84, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife amongst others. Bill & Ted would have sat comfortably beside these movies as a late-summer blockbuster.
As it stands, Bill & Ted is now one of the few movies which has received a release, and sadly, it will no doubt slip through the cracks. But if you were a fan the first time around, and you get the chance, be it through VOD, the cinema, or even through streaming (Netflix, Amazon, or wherever it ends up), be sure to give Bill & Ted Face the Music some time, and some love – it really does deserve it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review of Bill & Ted Face the Music on It’s A Stampede! For more movie-related content, including reviews, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.