After a nearly 30-year wait since their “Bogus Journey,” Bill and Ted’s return in “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is well worth it. The third in a cult classic series starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, who has spent the past five or so years writing, producing and directing documentaries, this film is a love letter to fans of the series, both new and old.
The best friend duo, Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves), must unite the world and preserve time and space by composing a new song in this sci-fi comedy. Pressed for time as the universe threatens to collapse, they travel back in time to steal a song from their past selves. Ted’s daughter, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), and Bill’s daughter, Thea (Samara Weaving), assist their fathers in their quest to save the world.
While the first two films in the trilogy, “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” are more typical stoner comedy films — even though their late-’80s/early-’90s humor is somewhat different from present-day stoner humor — the third film is much different. The love and care put into this film are evident. Every important character and detail of the past productions sneaks its way back into “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” including several very heartfelt references to George Carlin, who played Rufus, the pair’s guide from the year 2688, in the first two films but who passed away in 2008.
The same style of humor is employed in this film, which can sometimes feel awkward and stilted coming from the titular actors — who are now in their mid-50s — and from the aged-on actors who play their children. Unlike the first two films, however, there is less of a focus on humor and a lot more on the relationship between the characters. Bill and Ted’s friendship has always been the emotional center of the series, but surpassing that theme in this film is their love for their families — which, of course, includes their love for one another.
The main issue with “Face the Music” was also present in the first two films: the shallow nature of the characters. This film does attempt to add depth to both the new and existing characters, but the ensemble cast and relatively short run time make this endeavor a difficult one. The audience is never fully introduced to Billie and Thea, which in some ways makes them seem like they are essentially copies of their fathers. Still, while their backgrounds may be underdeveloped, they prove wholly entertaining and endearing as a result of Lundy-Paine and Weaving’s stellar performances.
Where “Face the Music” shines, though, and does much better than its predecessors, is in its inclusion of people of color. Previously, the only character of color was Ted, and Reeves, who is one-quarter Chinese Hawaiian, is fairly white-passing, so a casual viewer might not realize there is any real representation in the films at all — especially considering both his father and brother are cast as fully white. With its homage to music history, “Face the Music” acknowledges a very diverse group of artists and their contributions to music, including a very fun appearance from rapper and singer Kid Cudi, and meaningfully centers women by giving importance to their stories as well, not just Bill and Ted’s.
Lundy-Paine especially shone in their role as Billie, keying into the charming stoner-slash-music geek in every way, from the wardrobe they chose themselves to their mannerisms. Lundy-Paine plays wonderfully off of Weaving’s Thea, making them a charming and easily loveable pair. Additionally, Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy, the time-traveling robot antagonist, gives a hilarious performance that fits perfectly into the comedy of the series, especially in his interactions with Winter and Reeves.
Any fan of “Bill & Ted” will love this feel-good film, especially as it winds down to a close. Even someone who is not a die-hard fan will be able to sit back, block out current events for a few moments, and watch Bill and Ted finally bring the world to complete harmony. To up the sentimentality, the producers took to the internet to gather videos of fans dressed as the characters or playing instruments to include during the credits.
Combined with the emotional weight of the end of the film, the whole production was enough to bring this particularly soft viewer to tears.