Face the Music doesn’t possess the rambunctious energy of its predecessors, but is hopeful and good-natured in a way too few comedies achieve these days.
Just before Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan hop into their time-traveling phone booth for another leg of their continuing adventure, one of the duo’s daughters urges the guys to “Be sweet.” That might as well be the mantra of Bill & Ted Face the Music, a thoroughly charming but in no way exceptional return to these characters after nearly 30 years. Despite their unique relationship with time, Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves both return) have settled into the familiar rhythms of age. Both are fathers now, and still married — albeit not quite so happily — to their princesses, but their marriages are struggling due to the guys’ endless failure to live up to the destiny they insist is still theirs: that they’ll one day write a song to save the universe. Until then, though, they’re stuck playing open mic nights and performing wedding gigs. Of course, a final opportunity presents itself when time and space start collapsing, and off we go.
Like the previous two films, Face the Music fairly coasts on its two leads’ charisma and chemistry. Winter and Reeves slip pretty easily back into these characters, and their endless optimism and genuine love for each other is a real source of warmth and humor. The movie gets a lot of mileage out of having Bill and Ted confront other versions of themselves in varying degrees of existential torment and/or prosthetic makeup. Even more appealing are Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as their daughters Thea and Billie, doing pretty spot-on imitations of their dads, of whom they seem to be exceedingly proud. That it’s immediately obvious that they will play a crucial role in the finale only makes it more satisfying when they do, and enlivens the process playing out.
This being what they now call a “legacyquel,” callbacks and references to the old movies are of course all over the place. Wiliam Sadler’s Death makes a return appearance, there’s another killer robot, another visit to the afterlife, and so forth, and although this entry as a whole doesn’t possess its forerunners’ imagination, it at least never feels forced or lazy. In fact, often this plays into the idea that Bill and Ted are just repeating themselves and might need to finally just move on. Director Dean Parisot doesn’t add much visual flair to compensate for what’s clearly a very low budget, but he also thankfully doesn’t get in the way of his performers’ comic timing. And even at a scant 88 minutes, Face the Music does drag a bit, mostly because its endgame is apparent from the very beginning. It never really reaches the rambunctious energy and momentum of its predecessors, but that’s ultimately fine; it’s enough to see something so thoroughly good-natured, a comedy about aging and unfulfilled potential that’s content and hopeful rather than disappointed.