We rejoin the duo at another critical time in their lives. It’s been almost 30 years since we last saw Bill S Preston and Ted Theodore Logan (aka WYLD STALLYNS) – but has that been too long? Does Face The Music deliver? Will there be spoilers? (not intentionally but probably)
It’s no secret that fans have been clawing for a third film in the franchise since the 90’s. The option for a new installment garnered little traction from studios, which is quite surprising – as we all know modern Hollywood is chomping at the bit to reboot, recycle and rehash any nostalgic property it can get its grubby paws on. But alas the Franchise continues! Here’s a look at the story so far :
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
The pair were first introduced to audiences in this outing which grossed $40 million at the box office on a $6.5 million budget. It’s safe to say that most audiences were bewildered by the genre of the film : Was it a comedy? A sci-fi romp? (NO! It’s an Excellent Adventure! Pay attention!)
Either way it was well received and cemented the duo in the hearts of cult and mainstream audiences alike. A fantastically upbeat story that affirms George Carlin as the epitome of cool, Joan of Ark as “Noah’s wife” and John Wick as the alternate dimension where Ted got sent to Oats Military Academy.
To top it off the soundtrack absolutely kicks ass which we’ve discussed in our previous piece : We’ve Never Heard Wyld Stallyns Songs, OR HAVE WE?
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
The sequel followed up with a $38 million return on a $20 million budget and sought to change gears with its continuation of the story albeit in a different style. Bogus Journey blended Raimi-esque horror and darker themes alongside the pairs comedic delivery to show that this is not primarily a time-travel franchise.
This film continues the positive tone and swings with the theme that things havent worked out for the pair just yet – their dreams disproportionately outweighing their abilities.
Face The Music (2020)
We rejoin the Wyld Stallyns almost 30 years after we left them poised for total domination of music. Having completed a “16 month intensive guitar training” course they played an absolute blinder at the San Dimas Battle Of The Bands. As the closing credits of Bogus Journey informed us (which were added in post production, much to the confusion of the writers) – the band gained a string of successful accomplishments.
Snap back to present day and the duo still haven’t written the song that will unite the world, align the planets and bring about meaningful communication with all life. After interest in the band has now wained and the pair have tried everything they can to remedy it, Bill and Ted are left crippled by the weight of their destiny.
Face The Music continues with the franchise signature optimism. It’s difficult to hate these characters as it’s not in their capacity to be negative, sarcastic or snarky. Logan and Preston are essentially sweet, dumb puppies with PHD’s in rocking out.
The chemistry of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter is still fiercely electric after all this time. The actors bounce off each other with impeccable timing and it warms the heart to see this symbiotic relationship back on the big screen. The same can be said of William Sadler reprising the role of Death whose scenes hadn’t missed a step since the last film. Alex winter was fantastic and despite not acting for some time, he absolutely owns it. I feel like Reeves has spent his life working the Ted out of his system and struggles to regain the character here.
The A-plot sees Bill and Ted trying to track down their alternate selves and moves at varying paces throughout the runtime, but over all keeps the film rolling.
The B-plot involves the duos daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) gathering up famous musicians from history to assemble the perfect band. It’s almost like a soft reboot of Excellent Adventure and presumably (pending favourable box office returns) setting the girls up as the new Wyld Stallyns. It’s safe and it’s distinctly in-keeping with the previous films themes.
Special recognition to Brigette Lundy-Paine who nailed some most-bodacious Ted-like mannerisms during her performance. Check her out in Netflix‘s Atypical if you get the chance.
The wives subplot felt like the characters were engaging in busy work, seemingly to keep them from underfoot of the A and B plots. In consistent fashion the princesses are relevant only when the plot needs them to be, which is absolutely fine as this is a Bill and Ted film, not an Elizabeth and Joanna one.
The introduction of killer robot Dennis was essentially a rehash of the Death introduction from Bogus Journey, except with a cheaper looking costume. The character becomes annoyingly tedious, very quickly for both audience and characters.
The obvious absence of George Carlin is painfully apparent but the presence of Kristen Schaal goes a long way to make up for it, as does casting her in the role of Rufus’ Daughter (and naming her Kelly after Carlin‘s real life daughter). Unfortunately Schaal doesn’t get the chance to really shine and her character seems more like a formal obligation than anything else. Even so – Schaal brings her best chops.
I’m not going to get too bogged down in the paradoxes of time travel but i will say that the film falls down here. The franchise up until this point set out a basic set of rules for that universe and how things operate. With this film the world-building collapses in on itself. The booth now travels to alternate realities as well as through time but it’s never really established. The internal logic associated with dying, hell and time are equally convenient – 2 sets of characters are killed 37 years apart yet somehow arrive in Hell at nearly the same time. And with a SWAT van?
Where was the classic rock cameos? Van Halen (I wrote this before the awful news – RIP EDDIE), Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, Faith No More? Instead we got Kid Cudi (?) and an admittedly short but sweet appearance by Dave Grohl. Presumeably this was an effort to include modern musicians and help “get the kids on board”? I was hoping to hear Robbie Robb or at least a scene that matched that energy but sadly the closest we got was a finale that sounded more like Coldplay than Wyld Stallyns.
For me the jokes fall short in this outing, but they fall short safely. Almost as if they were never really trying to begin with. The only genuine laugh i enjoyed was the premise that Deacon had shacked up with Missy.
As stated, the pace is slow to begin and by the end it’s a mad squeeze to get everything in. It felt rushed to conclude and even then we never really got a conclusion. We did get a post credits scene but it didn’t really do anything for the film. You can watch it here.
Plot-wise Face The Music is predictable but not in the sense that it’s an issue – the characters are already set up to win but the implication of “Logan and Preston” being the answer stuck out like a sore thumb. It felt like much of the previous films had been retconned in this aspect. Rufus had always asserted that Wyld Stallyns (Bill and Ted) were the ones to bring about this universal shift. In this film his assertions are painted with an almost Morpheus/Qui Gon Jin “chosen one” vibe. That maybe Rufus had misunderstood a prophecy and not just come from a time when this was fact. Slightly confusing given the evidence from the previous films.
What is very apparent here is that the love shines through on this project. It’s obvious this was a passion project for everyone who worked on it. It’s a wholesome outing in general and despite my criticism it feels good to spend time with those characters again. For me it’s just 25 years too late.
Special shoutout to Omniplex Cinemas and their awesome reclining chairs for putting this film on. Top notch job lads. Support your local cinema at OMNIPLEX.IE now more than ever!