Sept. 4, 2020 | By Andrew Rodden | Illustration by Xixi Qin
I’ve been reinforcing this point ever since the start of the pandemic: 2020 has undoubtedly been a down year for movies. With the wide closure of theaters around the world, many movie studios are opting to keep their films out of the theater, which means fewer movies for me. Of course, it is a necessary step in order to keep people safe while COVID-19 continues to ravage the U.S., but it doesn’t mean I can’t stand on my back porch to shout into the void, “I just want more movies!”
This makes Dean Parisot’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music” an especially refreshing glass of water in this great movie drought of 2020, quenching a comedic thirst not quite seen since the previous installment, “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” a movie that hit movie theaters 29 years ago. Remember those places? However, several drive-in theaters around the country are screening the film, so if you’re lucky enough to live near one, take the precious opportunity to see this on the big screen.
Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves return as goofus duo Bill and Ted, now middle-aged, washed-up rock stars. Their wives are fed up, their daughters are unemployed, and they’ve been reduced to throat singing and playing the Theremin at family weddings. In a last-ditch effort to fulfill their destinies – and to bring balance to a deteriorating space-time continuum – Bill and Ted must go to the future to create the greatest song ever.
Their daughters, Thea and Billie (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine), travel back in time, eliciting the help of a few music legends, such as Louis Armstrong, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, and Kid Cudi. If an epic song could save us from our own world’s reality crisis, I have no doubt Kid Cudi would be as involved as he is in “Bill & Ted Face the Music.”
The film is delightfully stupid, though not as much as the first two movies in the “Bill & Ted” trilogy, which is surprisingly a shame. Though a bit more sincere – and ultimately stiffer – than the first two films, all those involved with “Bill & Ted Face the Music” sure seemed to have fun making this thing. Like the original “Bill & Ted” films, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” understands its purpose is not to make the goofy time-travel premise into a stuffy dram-com, but instead to have fun with it.
For example, late in the film a terminator-esque robot named Dennis Caleb McCoy (joyfully performed by Anthony Carrigan) sends Bill, Ted, their daughters, Mozart, Kid Cudi, Jimi Hendrix, and a few other musical greats into Hell, where they reunite with bass-playing former bandmate, Death (William Sadler), who brings them back to life to help save reality as we know it. Yes, it’s an absurd mess, but did “The Godfather” (1972) or “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) have the tenacity to include such a fun scene? I’ll let you decide.
One of my favorite parts of the original films (particularly in “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”) were the oddball sets; unfortunately, this third installment lacks creative set design. The style of “Bill & Ted Face the Music” is generally more polished and pristine, a style which works against the movie. Though if the grungy aesthetic of the first two movies reflected the state of rock ‘n’ roll during the MTV era, maybe the more polished and pristine aesthetic represents the state of rock today.
Are other new movies even allowed to be funny? I can’t remember the last new release to make me laugh as much as this one did, and boy, Orion Pictures couldn’t have chosen a better time to drop such a lighthearted film on streaming services. The rental and purchase prices are about $20 a pop for “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” so gather as many loved ones around the TV as is safe and watch one of the “most non-bogus” movies of 2020.