It’s been said that the electric guitar is dead. Even guitar great Eric Clapton has gone on the record, saying that the instrument very well may be on its way out. While traditional instrumentation isn’t nearly as prevalent in modern popular music as it once was, I couldn’t disagree with this sentiment more. Sure, the days of picking up a stringed instrument and writing tunes in your drummer’s garage, with hopes of winning a battle of the bands contest and getting signed to a record label, have passed, but the internet has done wonders for electric guitar players, as creating music, and mastering the instrument, are in the forefront of budding musicians’ minds everywhere. And what does all of this guitar-talk have to do with Bill and Ted Face the Music? A lot, actually.
Yet again, the Wyld Stallyns William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are tasked with saving the universe by a visitor from the future, Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (George Carlin) who tasked them, initially. Now in their fifties, Bill and Ted have yet to write the song that united the world; after a slew of failed albums, they’ve gone from headlining stadiums to trying out new tracks at family weddings. Time has run out and if the two are unable to come up with the song by 7:17 pm, then the Universe, essentially, will collapse into itself and be destroyed. And, in typical slacker fashion, rather than take the time to write the song, Bill & Ted figure it best to travel into the future and take the song from their future selves who have already written the song…
While Bill & Ted are busy trotting through the future, meeting other versions of themselves, their wives, the Babes, princess Joanna (Jayma Mays) and princess Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes) go on a jaunt through time of their own, as they’re both unsatisfied with the bromance that constantly interrupts their marriages, and are looking to see if it could possibly get better. Simultaneously, their twenty-year-old slacker daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), realize that their fathers will need a most bodacious band to back them when they return from the future, ready to perform a most excellent world-unifying tune, and decide to trek through time to recruit some of the world’s best musicians. One of the film’s greatest moments comes when Hendrix and Mozart have their first interaction, recognizing one another’s genius. Speaking of guitar heroes…
When Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure debuted in 1989, it was met with a lukewarm critical reception; it’s sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), managed to fare even worse. This didn’t stop viewers from elevating both films to cult status and eventually fitting them into the greater pop-culture construction as a sort of cornerstone. The dream that I mentioned above was already fading by the time William “Bill” S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves) rolled around and started traveling through time in a phone booth sent from the future, but that didn’t stop these two guitar-playing SoCal teens from holding onto their dreams of uniting the world through music and achieving superstardom.
Grunge didn’t kill Rock, and Kurt Cobain didn’t kill Eddie Van Halen, but the emergence of both did shake up the industry. Both Bill and Ted films were written, shot, and debuted during a transitionary time that, frankly, isn’t that much different from this one. Bedroom musicians with millions of YouTube followers have replaced the Rock Gods who performed blistering solos before walls of Marshall full stacks. Electric guitars are being purchased now, more than ever, they’re just not being played, as often, on stages. The dream may have changed, but it’s still alive nonetheless.
The film is fun, ridiculous, and well-paced, the performances delivered are earnest, and the special effects are gloriously miles ahead of those used in the first two films. Bill & Ted Face The Music serves as a reminder that it is never too late and that change isn’t always a bad thing. This core message is something that the world needs to hear, right now. So life hasn’t turned out how you expected it to, so what?
The Bottom Line
Not without its flaws, Bill & Ted Face the Music is self-aware and offers the same goofy fun that made the first two Bill and Ted films enjoyable. If you’re looking for a film to distract you from your heinous—probably pandemic-related—woes, look no further.