Its been 29 years since we last checked in with lovable imbeciles Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill Preston (Alex Winter), back when even then we had to believe 27 year old Reeves was a fresh faced teenager looking to save the world through music. In all those years these characters unsurprisingly haven’t changed, they are still the awkward kids out of time and regular existence. However now they are more man children, unable to grow up because of their previously admirable and relentless optimism, and while some comedy can be found in this new direction most of Bill & Ted Face The Music proves that for this comedy pairing, history hasn’t been kind.
Both still chasing their lifelong goal of uniting the world but with vastly diminishing returns. Now with wives they brought back from the past on their Bogus Journey and children aptly named Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), each are on the brink of giving up their dream until a messenger from the future warns them of an impending disaster and tells them that if they don’t write a universe defining song than existence will cease to exist. However when they can’t figure out how to do it their daughters decide to lend a hand as they depart on their own excellent adventure.
Although director Dean Parisot’s trilogy capper follows the same blueprint as the duo’s adventures in Bogus Journey almost to the letter, mainstay writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have smartly transitioned the comedy here into the almost perfect definition of dad humour. Both seem to understand that their original draw of being too naïve to know they are the butt of the joke doesn’t really work now that these two are old enough that they should know the difference. Sure their stupidity is still wonderfully awkward and Reeves in particular gives a physically uncomfortable performance that ensures Ted isn’t so far removed from what you remember but the gags that prove most authentic here are the ones that embrace the change, instead of playing to an audience that has grown up over the last 30 years.
Here lies the catch-22 in a film that is pleasantly earnest but also unrelentingly dated. More often than not the jokes miss their mark and then some. Sometimes its outright painful watching Winter and Reeves spout jokes designed to make them seem the teenage optimists they are when this is no longer a series about that anymore. This is a generational story more aimed at bridging the gap between two different age groups and for the younger audience, Face The Music is a tough slog of badly aimed material. Occasionally it hits the sweet spot of outright dumb with a twist of imperceptible wisdom, be it Bill and Ted engaging in some ludicrous escape antics that defies logic while messing with the notion of time and hindsight or Thea and Billie emulating their fathers a little too well. However sometimes just the sight of a dancing robot is enough to elicit a well earned chuckle. Its hard to deny that it is fun being back in this sandbox with Winter and Reeves but it is impossible not to notice that something is off and there is plenty of dead air.
Be it the improved visuals that make this tale seem even more outlandish than its predecessors or the absence of the cynical voice of reason provided by George Carlin’s Rufus, watching Face The Music and not wondering what is absent takes part of the fun out of a film that strives to be mindless. The inability to put your finger on it only confounds the problem. For those planning to go into Parisot’s film without prior knowledge might be the real victims here though as almost half of this story is aimed at understandable but unwelcoming fan service. Be it the addition of William Sadler’s Death or the frequent callbacks to the many historical figures that Bill and Ted have interacted with in the past/future. Newcomers, from start to finish, are essentially watching half a film.
While I dare you to hate the sentiment behind Face The Music as it is a genuine breath of fresh air that has been released as almost a gift for a forgivably downbeat audience, it doesn’t feel like it rests on its own merits. Ultimately this is a clumsy mess of inconsistent material, conflicting comic ideas and an all too often imposing question, of if after all these years, reviving this series was the good idea they thought it was. Although a fun afternoon watch, Bill and Ted might just have outgrown the jokes that got them here.