Sunday, 20 September 2020

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC review

In the works for the best part of two decades, Bill and Ted Face The Music sees Keanu Reeves's and Alex Winter's alter egos return to the big screen 29 years after their last big screen outing. Downtrodden by life and still trying to write prophesied song that will unite the world, the Wyld Stallyns bandmates are thrown back into a time travelling adventure in order to save their marriages to the princesses and prevent the collapse of space and time as we know it.

It's been a long time since Bill and Ted last graced our screens, and despite the idea of this mooted sequel occasionally lighting up social media whenever it was talked about by Reeves or Winter, 29 years is a long time to wait for a sequel to a pair of films that, although much beloved by their original audience, don't carry the same cultural cache as other legacy sequels that have arrived in the last few years, like 2018's Halloween, Blade Runner 2049 or the currently delayed Ghostbusters: Afterlife. But that's not to say that audiences won't be keen on lapping up a bit of late 80s, early 90s nostalgia particularly with Keanu Reeves experiencing a huge surge of interest in his output, post-John Wick success.

Face The Music dips back into ideas from the first two films, sending the pair of lovable slacker types on a journey through time in order to steal the song they're destined to write from their future selves who've already written it, with the added pressure that life as we know it will come to an end if they don't perform the song by 7:17pm that evening. Hopping back into the time travelling phone box that helped them navigate history the first time around, they meet the future Bill and Ted at various time points, only to find that the years haven't been kind to them. At the same time this is happening, their daughters Bille and Thea decide to help out their dads by also travelling through time to put together the greatest band in all of history, tracking down Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and, in what is one of the best pieces of casting for the film, Kid Cudi as himself who's also an expert on the space/time continuum. Oh, and there's also a killer robot sent from the future trying to wipe them out.

Of course, the main draw of the film is the re-uniting of Keanu Reeves with his long time friend, Alex Winter. The film couldn't be made without either of them present, but I'm sure Winter, who has spent most of the last 20 years behind the camera, will acknowledge that it's Reeves star power that has allowed this film to be made at all. Whilst Bill and Ted have retained most of the joie de vivre they previously had, the idea of losing their wives sees them in introspective mode, particularly Reeves's Ted. Frustrated that they haven't fulfilled their destiny, they are on the verge of giving up before Kristen Schaal's Kelly arrives with a stark message from the future.

Approached with some trepidation after the first trailer was a bit limp, I was still cautiously optimistic about the return of Bill and Ted, hoping that at the very least the film could offer a few laughs to raise a nostalgic smile. Thankfully it achieves that, despite the occasional stumble along the way. The time travelling plot device is a complete rehash of the original and the re-characterisation of the future Bill and Ted's may not make a lick of sense, but it moves so quickly that the less successful moments don't linger for long and we're onto the next part. Personally, I was always more of a fan of Bogus Journey than Excellent Adventure, which saw the heroes travel through the afterlife and encounter William Sadler's Death, and if you've seen the trailer it will come as no surprise that Sadler returns again to inject some life into proceedings when they're in danger of becoming stale. You could argue that the film would benefit from Sadler having more screen time, but I think it's timed perfectly to allow him to swoop in and play a key role in the finale without overstaying his welcome.

Of the new cast members, most of the screen time is given to Bill and Ted's daughters, Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving, sneakily gender swapped from the finale of Bogus Journey), with the new generation being chips off the old blocks by following their fathers' love of music whilst also inheriting their aloof slacker mentality. Weaving is a star on the rise after her lead role in last year's Ready or Not and brings a joyful enthusiasm to her role, but it's Lundy-Paine who's the standout of the pair, perfectly capturing the mannerisms of the young Keanu from the previous films. This is by no means an attempt to set up future instalments of the franchise that focus on them, but their presence does compliment their fathers' roles and recapture some of the exuberance that's missing from the more weary Reeves and Winter. They work excellently as two pairs on their own separate journeys, but the film is at its best when the cast is allowed to band together.

Another completely bizarre addition to the cast is Barry's Anthony Carrigan as a robot assassin sent by dissenters from the future to destroy Bill and Ted in an effort to save the world. As well as looking oddly fleshy for a robot, there's character revelations about him that will leave an indelible mark on your psyche, so bafflingly strange they turn out to be. He's no competition for Sadler's Death, but he becomes a strangely compelling part of the story as he reveals more about himself. Less well served are Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays as former princesses and current Bill and Ted spouses, Elizabeth and Joanna. They are also sent on a quest through time of their own to discover if there's happiness beyond their lives with the Wyld Stallyns, but this is C, D or even E plot stuff, only really noticed when they happen to intertwine with the action of our Bill and Ted.

Not quite excellent but by no means bogus, this latest instalment in the franchise has managed to breathe a bit of new life into the story with the clever introduction of the Wyld Stallyns offspring. It's squarely aimed at those already familiar with the previous Bill and Ted films, but could well appeal to their next generation too. Check your cynicism at the stage door, and Bill and Ted Face The Music is a sweet return for two of the most lovable doofuses cinema has ever known.

Verdict

3/5



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