Bill & Ted Face the Music has been set to save Hollywood from the doldrums of the coronavirus just as Wild Stallyns’ bodacious music was destined to unite the universe.
By ABQ Live writer Hector Valverde
As one of the first big-name productions finding its way into the wave of re-opening theaters, all eyes have landed on the film to not only cap off the Bill & Ted trilogy, but also give us all a reason to venture out to our AMCs, Regals, Cinemarks, and the like.
Full disclosure, I watched the film on my TV on demand. And while I do wonder if the medium of my viewing ultimately had an effect on my vibe with the film, I found Face the Music an unfortunately not excellent, most bogus experience, dude.
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Alongside returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves are back as our lovable pair of musician dopes. Following their show-stopping performance at the finale of Bogus Journey decades before, Face the Music finds Bill and Ted in a creative rut, still trying to craft the song that will bring all of creation into perfect harmony. After one big hit, the duo have carried into the modern day with nothing more to show, a failure that’s begun to not only take its toll on their marriages to their princess babes, but now all of reality. As time begins to collapse into itself, Bill, Ted, and their daughters, Thea and Billie, travel through the past, present, life, and death to find their one, true, universe-saving song.
The writing and directing on the first two Bill and Teds were dumb, fun efforts that hold up pretty well today, but the success of the films was undoubtedly propelled by the raucous and positive energy Reeves and Winter brought to the table. It pains me to say it, but Winter and Reeves are very noticeably firing at only twenty percent of their past capacity twenty-nine years down the road. It’s understandable that the two actors, now in their mid-fifties, wouldn’t be bouncing off the walls anymore, but the sense of infectious, numbskulled glee from the two leads feels almost completely absent in Face the Music.
That’s also mostly because Dean Parisot’s directing, as well as Matheson and Solomon’s screenplay, come fairly dead on arrival. I only managed to eke out a chuckle a handful of times throughout the snappy 88-minute runtime; as I waited for the next gag or joke to arrive, which found the occasional charm here and there, I was just overall bored by the film’s disappointingly mellow moods. It’s strange Parisot couldn’t get the ball rolling better after his work directing the sparkling comedic spirit of Galaxy Quest and the 2005 Fun with Dick and Jane, both films teeming with personality from their actors, sets, and springy writing.
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Therein’s another weird problem with Face the Music. So much of the film is seemingly shot on green screen that it ends up looking off-puttingly cheap (even adjusted for inflation, it’s got the second-highest budget in the trilogy). The films looks uncannily sanitized and clean, a far cry from the last two films’ use of clever cinematography, matte paintings, and sets to overcome limitations of technology and budget. A lot of that old-fashioned charm that grounded the last two movies in the cinematic world just feels lost here.
Flipping that script, the recent trend of revisiting old characters and stories with a deeper revisionist lens has given some of film’s beloved icons surprisingly powerful new layers. Face the Music initially sets up Bill and Ted to become actually fleshed-out characters from their struggling marriages and a stinging sense of middle-aged career failure. Unfortunately, the film cops out by the end with no valuable or insightful resolution to the dudes’ shots at overarching narratives.
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Not to be too hard on the film, Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine pick up some of the slack as the spitting-image adult daughters of the young Bill and Ted. The two wonderfully capture the vibrancy of their onscreen parents’ youth and entirely made me wish they had been given the spotlight for more time. Alongside William Sadler’s ever-pleasant return as Death, Thea and Billie’s side adventures comprise the film’s bright spots, even if they pretty much are repeating the main beats of Excellent Adventure. And, not to be left out, I was thoroughly vibing with Bill and Ted’s first musical creation in the film, “That Which Binds Us Through Time: The Chemical, Physical and Biological Nature of Love; an Exploration of The Meaning of Meaning, Part 1.”
Bill & Ted Face the Music has its moments as the long-awaited cap to two beloved movies. But with an uncharacteristically low-energy presence for most of its runtime, the film may have come out too late for its own good.