Bill & Ted's
Photograph: Warner Bros.
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Bill & Ted Face the Music

4 out of 5 stars

Balancing nostalgia and epic stakes, Bill and Ted’s latest journey through time is an encore with heart

Zach Long

Time Out says

Rock ’n’ roll reunions are tricky. They can be soulless cash-grabs, half-baked reinventions or boring retreads of past glory. Thankfully, the return of dim-witted metalheads William ‘Bill’ S Preston esq (Alex Winter) and Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan (Keanu Reeves), Bill & Ted Face the Music, doesn’t fall into those traps, delivering a mostly excellent riff on the duo’s greatest cinematic hits that also packs an emotional punch.

Retconning the triumphant ending of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the latest sequel quickly reveals that Wyld Stallyns still haven’t written a song that unites the universe… yet. The now middle-aged pair’s continued struggle to record their prophesied hit relegates them to performing at weddings, sends them to couples therapy with their wives and worries their music-obsessed daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving).

When reality begins deteriorating due to the absence of the crucial track, Bill and Ted decide to simply steal their world-saving song from their future selves, jumping into a phone booth for another journey through the circuits of time. Simultaneously, Billie and Thea hatch a plan to help, by travelling into the past and gathering a group of famous musicians to serve as their fathers’ backing band.

The nearly constant time-hopping antics give Face the Music a frenetic tone, setting up surreal encounters with new permutations of Bill and Ted, appearances by various historical figures and a return trip to hell, where William Sadler gleefully reprises his role as Death. It’s familiar territory for writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who deftly harness the goofy, freewheeling energy of previous Bill & Ted instalments, which they also wrote.

With Reeves and Winter slipping back into their SoCal vernacular and air-guitar mannerisms, Face the Music never shies away from nostalgia, offering a glimpse of Rufus (achieved with archival footage of the late George Carlin) and even a Circle K sign. But nods to the past are accompanied by worthy new additions to the mythos, including a hilarious turn by Kristen Schaal as Rufus’s daughter Kelly and Anthony Carrigan’s (Barry’s NoHo Hank) deadpan portrayal of a killer robot from the future.

Transforming a story of the friendship between two dudes into a heartwarming tale of epic proportions about the bonds of family, Bill and Ted’s contemporary adventure feels about as natural as this kind of belated franchise extension can get. Outfitted with fresh wrinkles and renewed closure to a narrative that presumably ended nearly 30 years ago, Bill & Ted Face the Music is the rare encore that’s nearly as bodacious as what preceded it.

In US cinemas now. Out in the UK on Sep 23 and Australia on Sep 27.

Cast and crew

  • Director:Dean Parisot
  • Screenwriter:Ed Solomon, Chris Matheson
  • Cast:
    • Keanu Reeves
    • Alex Winter
    • Kristen Schaal
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