Bill & Ted Face The Music a flawed but heartwarming encore for cinema's favourite dude duo
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (PG, 91 mins) Comedy/sci-fi/adventure. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Kristen Schaal, Anthony Carrigan, William Sadler. Director: Dean Parisot
OVER 20 years in the making, Bill & Ted Face The Music – the belated 'threequel' to Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) – now carries an even greater weight of expectation as it becomes one of the few new releases hitting cinemas post-lockdown.
Sadly, that's less than most-triumphant news for beloved dude duo Bill S Preston Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted 'Theodore' Logan (Keanu Reeves), who previously travelled through time to pass their high school History class before teaming up with Death himself to save the universe with their rock band Wyld Stallyns – cue ecstatic air guitar break – because B&T3 is easily the least instalment of this newly minted trilogy.
Cue portentous minor chord 'kerrang'.
Despite offering regular chuckles as it strives to deliver some much needed heartwarming feelgood fun to an expectant fanbase, there's also a fair amount of cringing going on as the film struggles to recapture the gloriously goofy charms of its predecessors.
But hey, rock and roll comebacks are notoriously tricky.
Appropriately, the entire premise of B&T3 is that the now 50-something dudes have somehow managed not to fulfil their bodacious destiny as musical saviours, previously revealed to them by time-hopping chum Rufus (the late great George Carlin).
Instead of their music helping to put an end to war and poverty, aligning the planets and bringing them into universal harmony (while also being excellent for dancing), Wyld Stallyns have faded into obscurity.
The once triumphant twosome are toiling in middle-aged bar band oblivion as they repeatedly try and fail to come up with their elusive One Big Song. In fact, they have been reduced to trying out their experimental new material on the unsuspecting guests at a family wedding, where the choice of bride and groom provides one of the best call-backs to the original movies.
When Rufus's daughter Kelly (Kristen Schaal) arrives from the future to inform them of an imminent apocalypse that (naturally) only their music can avert, the dudes embark on a last-ditch time-hopping mission to nail their ultimate universe saving tune in true Bill & Ted style – by 'stealing' it from their future selves.
So far, so excellent – but B&T3 comes a little unstuck courtesy of the titular time tinkerers' 20-something offspring, Wilhelmina 'Billie' Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theadora 'Thea' Preston (Samara Weaving). As their dads encounter ever more bizarre future versions of themselves, music buffs Billie and Thea venture into the past to recruit a new band of mostly deceased pan-global musical stars to help them perform whatever magnum opus they come up with.
Despite the promising team-up premise, unfortunately Weaving and Lundy-Paine fail to generate much chemistry with their screen parents (or even each other) while turning in fairly lame impersonations of the young Bill and Ted.
There's definitely an odd lack of actual family feeling in this multi-generational adventure, which may be a huge missed opportunity to inject some fresh female/non-binary Generation Y blood into the B&T universe while paving the way for future adventures.
And, while the ever youthful Keanu Reeves (56) gamely picked the very moment they began shooting B&T3 to actually start looking his age, the film fails to fully exploit the pathos of his fading pin-up looks – the equivalent of missing an open goal in a movie about aging rockers in decline, especially one that actually does feature a selection of Bill & Teds in various states of amusing decrepitude.
Still, it's a joy just to see him back in action with Alex Winter, and the supporting cast is top notch: a sadly under-utilised Anthony Carrigan (NoHo Hank in Barry) turns up as a killer robot from the future with amusing self-worth issues, while a returning William Sadler reprises his B&TBG role as board game cheating harvester of souls turned Wyld Stallyns bassist, the Grim Reaper – the film becomes far more enjoyable the moment his ghostly visage eventually appears on screen.
While Bill and Ted Face The Music might not be totally excellent (dude), its heart is definitely in the right place despite some annoying flaws - and the nagging suspicion that other vital story/character related 'organs' might have ended up on the cutting room floor to serve a tight 90 minute run time.
Dare we hope for an extended 'Reaper cut' remix? Don't pack away those air guitars just yet.
:: Bill & Ted Face The Music is in cinemas now.