Long before Anaheim became the “City of Kindness,” a condition that has supposedly spread to Eugene and other cities, San Dimas was home to two fictional rockers who urged the world to “be excellent to each other” and “party on, dudes.” The San Dimas residents Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are back in Bill and Ted Face the Music.
Now a trilogy, the Bill and Ted movies are about two metalheads who suck at guitar but whose music is supposed to lead to a utopian society. It begins in 1989 with Excellent Adventure when Rufus (George Carlin) guided the two through time so they could pass history class — and Ted then wouldn’t be sent to military school to deal with his poor grades, thus breaking up the band.
In Bogus Journey, robot copies of the two try to kill Bill and Ted to put a stop to the utopian society. But they overcome Hell, form a band with Grim Reaper (William Sadler) on bass (whose appearance is much like the Grim Reaper from The Seventh Seal) and perform a song at Battle of the Bands.
In Face the Music, reality is unfolding because Wyld Stallyns haven’t written the song that brings balance and peace to the universe. Much like the ’80s bands Bill and Ted worshipped, the two descend into obscurity, desperate to write the song they were destined to. So reality is falling apart, and (pun intended) Bill and Ted have to “face the music.”
While Bill and Ted travel through time to find the song they need to write, their daughters likewise travel through time to assemble a super group to help their fathers. Bill’s daughter, Theadora “Thea” (Samara Weaving), and Ted’s daughter Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) are basically 24-year old versions of their fathers. But instead of playing guitars in a garage, we see them nerding out over Jimi Hendrix live recordings.
What’s impressive about the movie is that Reeves and Winter return to their airhead characters nearly without missing a beat. Reboots and long-awaited sequels can make nostalgia forced (ahem, Star Wars), but the duo have made the reunion seem genuine. And part of that is because Weaving and Lundy-Paine as music nerds is a fresh approach to the trope of musically untalented metalheads that Bill and Ted were in Excellent Adventure.
The last Bill and Ted movie (Bogus Journey) was released nearly 20 years ago, and since then Reeves has enjoyed his status as internet darling movie star since he’s fared through the endless waves of canceled celebrities. But after years of hinting at the release of a third Bill and Ted movie, it’s finally here — and COVID-19 won’t stop the Wyld Stallyns from rockin’ out. With cameos from hip-hop star Kid Cudi and others, Easter eggs to previous movies and a nod to now-deceased comic legend Carlin, Face the Music is a much-needed, wholesome 90-minute distraction from the dumpster fire we currently call “real life.”
And maybe there’s an answer to the questions of how we return to society after COVID in this movie. Face the Music — and the Bill and Ted trilogy — riffs on the idea that one song can change the world, that art can bring unity and lead us all to “be excellent to each other.” Once we’re kind to one another, then we can “party on, dude,” as Logan says. After years of the corporatization of art and of dismantling youth access to music, maybe when the pandemic is over it will be time we put music and art back on top of our concerns as a society.
Bill and Ted Face the Music is available to rent or buy on streaming services; it opens at Broadway Metro Sept. 4.