'Bill & Ted' is the Trilogy I Didn’t Know I Needed

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    Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey--the second and, until recently, final film in the Bill & Ted franchise--was released in 1991, the same year I was born. That movie (and its predecessor, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) were something I semi-absorbed through cultural osmosis as opposed to watching. I knew the big quotes (“Be excellent to each other,” “San Dimas High School football rules!”) and the rough outline of the plots: two slacker musicians played by Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves travel through time and, in Bogus Journey, the afterlife. But the movies themselves didn’t feel like huge cultural touchstones. I mostly regarded them as “those comedies Keanu Reeves was in before The Matrix… and wasn’t George Carlin in them, too?”
    That was as much attention as I afforded the films, and I didn’t pay much heed when the newest film, Bill & Ted Face the Music, was announced either. That is, until my wife showed me the trailer a few weeks ago.
    “That looks kinda good,” she said. “I haven’t seen the other ones, though.”
    When she found out that I hadn’t seen them either, we decided that we should get caught up and catch the new one when it came out. After all, the studio was being conscientious with distribution--we could rent the film digitally and see a brand-new movie without risking a theater.
    Well, we didn’t end up watching the first two before the third came out; in fact, by the time last Monday morning rolled around, we hadn’t watched a single Bill & Ted movie. We both had the day off, so we decided hey… why not just watch all three that day? We played Excellent Adventure while we ate breakfast, Bogus Journey with lunch, and Face the Music over dinner.
    As it turns out, I’m a big Bill & Ted fan.
    The older films have some issues, sure, but overall they hold up surprisingly well. But you’re not here to read about thirty-year-old movies, right? Let’s talk about the final part of the trilogy: the newly-released Bill & Ted Face the Music.
    There is one word that comes to mind to describe Bill & Ted Face the Music: joyous. In a year that has been dominated by tragedy and struggle, Face the Music delivers fun, laughs, and above all, hope.
    Picking up as it does 29 years after the last film, Face the Music examines its two titular characters in the throes of a mid-life crisis. They have not, as the first two movies promised, written music that unites humanity; their band was big for a bit after the events of Bogus Journey, but their fame has long since faded. The pressure to fulfill their musical destiny has begun to put strain on their marriages, and this--as well as a message from the future--is what really kicks off the plot.
    The movie also introduces the pair’s daughters, Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigitte Lundy-Paine), who drive a large part of the plot. These two are great; they’ve inherited all the good-hearted-but-foolish charm of their fathers. Lundy-Paine is particularly gifted at mimicking her cinematic father’s verbal and physical tics; combined with their uncanny resemblance, you’d almost think she was Reeves’s real daughter.
    The movie is filled with call-backs to the earlier installments--Missy is back and getting remarried again, the late George Carlin’s Rufus character is mentioned several times, and even Ted’s little brother from the first film is back. Honestly, watching the whole trilogy in one day was helpful to catch all the great references in the third entry.
    Even the structure is a love-letter to Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, with a “gather famous historical figures” segment that resembles the first film and an afterlife-focused act that brings to mind the second. Face the Music is like an excellent synthesis of its predecessors, combining their strengths while shedding many of their weaknesses.
    The film is also funny as heck--I’m writing this on Tuesday, and I’m sure I’ll still be laughing at some of these gags when this article goes up later this week (special mention to Dennis Caleb McCoy. You’ll see).
    More than that though, it’s surprisingly heartwarming. It’s a movie about finding your purpose; about making peace with yourself; and most importantly, about the transcendent power of art, and the beauty of creating it. This last point is communicated in the film’s pivotal scene, which hinges on a twist that you can see coming from miles away; and yet despite that predictability, the message is presented so earnestly and with so much compassion (and so little judgment) that it still hit me hard.
    The power of stories, and of art, is something I have believed in passionately for my entire life. To see that belief reflected in this movie… this goofy, charming, ridiculous movie, that was clearly such a labor of love for the cast and crew? That was powerful. That is a feeling that I will hold onto for a long time.
    So, here’s my advice to you: go watch Bill & Ted Face the Music. Heck, go watch all three. Be excellent to each other… and party on, dudes.
More articles and reviews by Ethan McIntyre can be found at rollwithit.blog.