Bill & Ted Face the Music (PG, 192 mins)
Yes way, Bill and Ted!
It is a filmmaker's dream to produce a film that might end up shaping popular culture.
There could be no way the producers of the low-budget 1989 Bill &Ted's Excellent Adventure - a dorky comedy about two pot-head high school students wasting the gift of time travel to help them write their high school history essay - could have envisaged their charming and dumb flick's enduring legacy.
To begin with, it gave us the gift of Keanu Reeves. He had already been most excellent in River's Edge in 1986, but this was his springboard to a superstardom still strong 30 years later.
It begat a series of spinoffs including the 1991 sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and now this three-decades-later sequel. Its syntax entered the lexicon but most people will have forgotten that phrases like "Party on!" "Yes way!" and "Be Excellent To Each Other!" originated here.
And its success would allow other zeitgeist-causing phenomena that would shape the way we talk, not the least of which being Wayne's World that would follow three years later. That's a lot to hang on the shoulders of one little film, and that sense of expectation is in fact what this sequel is all about.
The premise of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was that these two layabouts from San Dimas, California - Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu Reeves) - would form a band that would write the song that would unite the world. As this film opens, that most certainly hasn't happened.
As narrated by their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine), their band Wyld Stallyns and their hit song Those Who Rock fell off the charts and into obscurity.
As , emissary from the future Kelly (Kristen Schaal) explains to them, their failure to produce the song that brings humanity into rhythm and harmony is causing time itself to unravel.
Bill and Ted take their stolen time travel phone booth forward through their futures to steal the history-changing song off themselves. Meanwhile, their daughters take a second time booth back into history to enlist band members for Wyld Stallyns - Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft), Mozart (Daniel Dorr), Chinese flautist Ling Fun (Sharon Gee), Kid Cudi (himself) and prehistoric African drummer Grom (Patty Anne Miller).
In a further plot line, the boys' medieval princess wives (now played by Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) are taken to glimpse of their future with Bill and Ted, leading them to conclude life might be better without them, while Great Leader (Holland Taylor) has sent back an android to eliminate Bill and Ted as one possible way to fix time.
I'm very pleased to say that Bill & Ted Face The Music is as delightfully dumb as its two predecessors. There are terrific laughs in some of screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon's sillier set-ups - particularly the argument between Bill and Ted and Death (William Sadler) about their band breakup, or the pretentious British accents sported by supposedly-successful Bill and Ted from the future.
I particularly loved the equally pretentious theremin, bagpipe, kettle drum, bongo and trumpet opening bars from Bill and Ted's song That Which Binds Us Through Time: The Chemical, Physical and Biological Nature of Love - An Exploration Of The Meaning; The Meaning, Part One.
The cast all appear to be having a ton of fun - particularly Winter, who produced the film (Stephen Soderbergh also has a production credit).
It's wonderful to see Canberra's own Samara Weaving as Bill's daughter Thea. She and Lundy-Paine (familiar to some viewers from the Netflix series Atypical) are delightfully silly, mimicking their on-screen dads' mannerisms.
The hair, makeup and costuming teams deserve special mention as they not only recreate dozens of great figures from history, but deliver bodacious work on old, alcoholic, and muscled-up future versions of Bill and Ted.
One of my step-kids had a chop at me last week for giving Christopher Nolan's Tenet four stars, causing him to go see, and hate, that film. I'll just park for a minute the unexpected pleasure of discovering one of your kids has actually read your work, and unpack the conversation we then had about the complexities of the film critic rating system.
Should you mark a film down or up when, in Nolan's case, he aimed for something truly complex and excellent and fell slightly short? In the case of another time-travel film, Bill & Ted Face the Music, how do you rate a film that doesn't aspire to be anything more than dumb fun and absolutely delivers on that ambition?
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