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With irony long dead in its tomb, sincerity seemed likely to be the next concept in hospice. After nearly a half decade of “fake news,” memes as journalism, and deceit as a political platform, 2020 seemed like the perfect year to shovel dirt on the very idea of honesty.
Then along comes Bill and Ted Face the Music, an overwhelmingly silly and stupid nostalgic endeavor that is passionately unashamed of being exactly what it is. To be clear, the film isn’t some swaggering, overconfident idiot proclaiming its own greatness. It is just a dumb and genuine reminder that trying to help as many people as possible is exhausting but ultimately, you know, the right fucking thing to do.
Face the Music picks up nearly 30 years after Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) returned from both time traveling and a trip to hell, which are the same thing for any non-white dude who travels into the past. Despite being repeatedly assured that their music would unite the world, the duo known as Wyld Stallyns has only attained Nickelback status: most people have heard their music and wish they hadn’t. They keep trying though! Just like Nickelback…
After heading to marriage counseling with their wives, Bill and Ted are told they are now up against the clock to create said world-uniting music or all known quantum realities will also collapse. This sends the pair scrambling forward in time to find a reality in which they had already written the song. Meanwhile, their daughters—Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving)—travel to the past to snag famous musicians to form their band. Then a sentient murder robot named Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan) shows up and steals the whole damn movie.
Actually, let’s start there: While the vast majority of Face the Music is “chuckle and smirk” funny, Carrigan is “careful not to pee yourself a little” hilarious. As for the other performers, whereas Reeves returns to Ted just fine, Winters’ warm enthusiasm is palpable without ever feeling desperate. He “pops” in a way that should ideally get him on screen more often. If Bill outshines Ted, the reverse is true for their daughters. Weaving counterproductively can be seen obviously thinking about how to act dumb, whereas Lundy-Paine’s goofy doofus feels awkwardly legit.
The biggest surprise is that the film’s simplistic, dorkball message is somehow explicitly what we need to hear right now. The world is a giant, awful toilet filled with Satan’s stool. The parts of the country that aren’t literally on fire due to climate change are either burning from the spark of systemic racism or filled with the smoldering ashes of the pandemic’s victims. Fixing all of that seems impossible. Even trying seems like foolish nonsense.
Face the Music is a celebration of foolish nonsense. It is a reminder that giving up is, well, bogus. Would it help if we had a phone booth time machine? Depends on who was pushing the buttons. In the absence of acquiring their deus ex machina, we can at least adopt Bill and Ted’s mantra: Be excellent to each other, and the rest may just work itself out.
Grade = B+
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Victor Stiff from That Shelf says that the film is a love it or hate it proposition, and liked it despite accurately identifying that “It has the feeling of an SNL sketch that is a great concept but goes on too long.”
Sabrina Ramirez of Geeks of Color found the film delightful and hopeful, as she also pointed out that it seems particularly well-timed to this moment.
Sherin Nicole of idobi.com rated it “7/10 for nostalgia,” does hit on the one big problem: “Let’s not have the greatest drummer of all time—who appears to be some kind of ancient African, complete with dreadlocks—play the drums with bones. Okay? Thanks.”