The year 1989 was pretty much the most excellent 12 months in history, giving us the birth of Taylor Swift, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the August release of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a movie that combined the historical laughs of a Carry On film with the stoner-bro tropes of leftfield ‘80s teen fodder like Fast Times At Ridgemont High and the time travelling capers of the Back To The Future movies, Part II of which was released the same year.
…Excellent Adventure saw the Californian buddies of the title, played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, take off on a knockabout adventure through history in a time-travelling phone box, with scant regard for the fact that Doctor Who got to that one first. The irrepressible positivity and weird, symbiotic best-friendship of the lead characters – plus Keanu’s very apparent star-power – helped the movie to huge success, spawning video games, a Saturday morning cartoon and a superior sequel, 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, in which they undertook a Faustian journey to heaven and hell.
Within a decade, Reeves was starring in the era-defining Matrix trilogy, while Winter’s career took a meandering path towards directing. While there was clear goodwill from each party to reunite for another Bill & Ted film, time – ironically – ran away from them. Finally back on our screens 29 years on, the long-awaited third movie makes the most of the easy situational comedy in a pair of late middle-aged men (Winter is 55, Reeves is 56) behaving broadly the same as they did in their 20s – albeit now with a 24-year-old daughter each, and a failed music career/universe-saving mission to their names.
Bill & Ted Face The Music is a film that needs to appeal to two distinct audiences – those who remember the first movies, and those who’d be …Excellent Adventure’s young target market were it released today. It does both surprisingly well. Old characters pop up in clever ways – like Missy, who married Bill’s dad, then Ted’s dad, and is now marrying Ted’s younger brother Deacon, a Jeremy Kyle nightmare situation that Bill and Ted manage to see the romance in. William Sadler, meanwhile, reprises his thin-skinned, petty-minded, 45-minute-bass-solo-playing personification of Death, who stole the show in Bogus Journey and does so again here.
New characters include the always-excellent Kristen Schaal as Kelly, daughter of their time-travelling companion Rufus, Dave Grohl himself as Dave Grohl himself, and Bill and Ted’s two daughters, Thea and Billie, played by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine, who nail the semi-Shakespearean dude-speak and mannequin-like mannerisms of their older counterparts. While OG Bill and Ted are off visiting older versions of themselves in an attempt to finally find the global peacemaking Logan-Preston song they’re prophesied to write, the younger generation are time-hopping around putting together a GOAT supergroup to play it in a subplot that’s pretty much a names-and-faces-changed retread of the franchise’s first outing. That – like it or not – is par for the course with a reboot, and it’s clear – and no bad thing whatsoever – that they’re setting the younger pair up for future films of their own.
Given how well the makers have preserved the unique spirit of the first two movies in this instalment, with its knockabout humour, knowing rock music cliches and just the right amount of fan service, we can only hope they don’t wait another three decades to make the next. Bring on Billie and Thea’s continued journeys – Excellent, Bogus, and all points in between.
- Director: Dean Parisot
- Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal
- Release date: September 10 (AU) / September 16 (UK)