It’s been nearly 30 years since we last checked in with Bill S. Preston, Esquire and “Ted” Theodore Logan, and though so much has changed in the intervening years, they thankfully have not. Bill & Ted Face the Music is the rare sequel that comes decades too late and yet arrives precisely when it’s supposed to. 2020 has been a bleak year, to put it mildly, and so it’s a beacon of joy to have a movie as goofy and fun as this release in the middle of it. Bill & Ted 3 doesn’t change the formula or needlessly update itself. Instead, this threequel delivers exactly what anyone would expect from another Bill & Ted movie, and as such, is a perfect movie to brighten the mood.
Bill & Ted 3 finds our heroes as middle-aged dads on the verge of divorce. They haven’t gotten around to writing the song that will one day unite the world, and their band, Wyld Stallyns, split up, leaving Bill and Ted to perform at weddings and open mic nights. The only real success they’ve had is in raising their daughters, Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan and Theadora “Thea” Preston – two teens obsessed with music and completely in awe of their dads. Though life hasn’t gone as it was destined, Bill and Ted remain as optimistic and determined as ever. And when they are again tasked with not only saving the world, but all of space and time, the duo more than rise to the occasion.
Though it’s been the better part of three decades since the previous entries, writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon easily recapture the tone of the earlier films. Handling the directing duties this time is Dean Parisot, and the Galaxy Quest director proves a most excellent choice. Face the Music has more moving pieces than Excellent Adventure or Bogus Journey, yet it never feels overwrought. The plot is zany and the characters earnest, resulting in a very silly movie that takes itself completely serious. There’s no cynicism here, Bill & Ted 3 is a movie told with the utmost sincerity.
The charm of the Bill & Ted movies has always stemmed from Bill and Ted themselves, and Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves slide right back into the roles. This duo are just as wholesome and hilarious as ever. William Sadler also returns as Death, and though it’s a smaller role this time around, Sadler is no less entertaining as the spurned Grim Reaper. As Bill and Ted’s daughters, Samara Weaving (Thea) and Brigette Lundy-Paine (Billie) almost upstage their screen dads, making a strong case for the franchise to continue with a new generation. The princesses, Bill and Ted’s wives, Joanna and Elizabeth are recast for the third time with Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes, but Face The Music also makes the princesses feel like real characters for the first time. Kristen Schaal plays Rufus’ daughter, Kelly, working as the in between for Bill, Ted, and the future’s Great Leader (Holland Taylor), and while a good performance from Schaal, George Carlin is one tough act to follow. Knowing this, Bill & Ted 3 also makes sure to honor the late comedian with well-handled cameo.
Of all the new characters in Bill & Ted 3, though, the real standout here is Anthony Carrigan as a robot sent from the future to kill Bill and Ted. While not an original concept for the franchise, Carrigan’s robot role lands many of the movie’s best jokes and brings a wild new energy to an already bizarre universe. And again, if there proves to be enough interest and we see the franchise continue in some manner with Weaving and Lundy-Paine, then incorporating Carrigan’s Dennis Caleb McCoy is a must.
Bill & Ted Face the Music is a nearly perfect bookend to the trilogy, so there may not really be any need to continue the story. It’s an uplifting movie in where two best friends work together with their family and friends to remind all of existence the power in being excellent to each other. And at a time like this, there is no better message.