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Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020) September 6th, 2020

Why aren’t their names over the right characters on the poster?

Oh boy has it been a shitty year. When I started this blog in March I questioned the shelf life of a name like “Quarantined Critic”. It isn’t a great name but unfortunately it’s still relevant. Let’s recap the year’s events: A number of people in my family have been struck with illness, some have passed away, I’ve been laid off and am currently unemployed, 188k Americans died after contracting COVID-19, riots and clashes between protestors and police has further eroded the already tenuous public trust in law enforcement, many Americans refuse to love their neighbors by avoiding social gatherings and wearing masks in public, and the global pandemic’s pushed the world economy to the brink of collapse. I could really go for some resplendent optimism right about now.

Enter Bill & Ted to unite the world in song and save reality as we know it. If you’re familiar with the first two installments of the Bill & Ted franchise then you know what to expect from the premise. Bill & Ted go on a reality-warping time-traveling adventure to fulfill their destiny as humanity’s musical saviors. At least that’s always BEEN the premise but it’s never actually happened. That’s where our story picks up.

Bill & Ted, now middle aged, have yet to write or perform the song that unites the world. In actuality they’re kind of has beens playing weddings and still trying to find their sound in a garage. Their marriages are on the rocks and their daughters are following in their fathers’ deadbeat footsteps. They’re about to give up, refuse the call, when their time traveling guru Rufus’ daughter appears in their cul de sac entreating their aid to save the world one last time.

The plot that follows is pretty standard Bill & Ted fare. While Bill & Ted travel through time and possibly dimensions trying to get the song that unites the world from multiple versions of their future selves, their daughters travel through time collecting historically significant musicians that’ll makeup the band that performs the prophesied deus ex musica. It wonderfully mixes the premises of both Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey in a way that hits the Goldilocks sweet spot. It just feels right.

While it’s a wonderfully appropriate sendoff for Bill & Ted it’s also a really fun movie. The jokes are comfortingly familiar like a picturesque Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Everything you want is there and prepared perfectly. Alex Winter’s performance annihilates every frame while his more wyldly famous co-star is almost too laid back in his reprisal. At one point Keanu Reeve’s Ted tells Winter’s Bill, “We have been banging our heads against the wall for 25 years. And I’m tired dude.” He looks it. No disrespect intended, no one else could play Ted and not to sound like that regrettable three letter word Bill & Ted used too freely in the first two movies, but Keanu Reeves has an enchanting smile and I want to see it more. Yeah, I said it. Ted should’ve smiled more.

I want to take a moment to recognize something really spectacular about Keanu Reeves’ career. With the release of Bill & Ted Face the Music Reeves’ enters an entertainment echelon rarer than the EGOT as the lead of three successful film franchises. Think about how rare this is (especially if you exclude voice acting and ignore stars from the 1940’s). Sylvester Stallone has Rocky, Rambo and the Expendables. Samuel L. Jackson’s held prominent roles in some of the most successful franchises of all time including Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and *cough* the xXx series… Ian McKellen had the X-Men series, the Lord of the Rings films plus the Hobbit trilogy if you count those seperately. While you couldn’t really call her role in Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy ‘starring’, Elizabeth Banks has a pretty significant role in the Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect series where she also directed. This is an incredibly rare achievement and it deserves recognition.

Now I want to rant about Alex Winter’s career. Freaked is a great movie. Shut up. Don’t argue with me. Just see it. It stars Alex Winter, Mr. T, Randy Quaid, Bobcat Goldthwait and Keanu Reeves in the uncredited role of Ortiz the Dogboy. What more could you ask for? It’s a 90’s masterpiece. And watch his documentaries too! He’s a once in a generation voice and you bastards don’t deserve him. Oh and in case you weren’t aware, there aren’t a lot of movies coming out this year. But there’s probably still going to be an Academy Awards. I sure hope the right people get their acts together and lobby Bill & Ted Face the Music for as many nominations as possible because the field’s thin and the movie’s good.

Ok, back to Bill & Ted Face the Music. Actors must be willing to embarrass themselves to land jokes. They have to compartmentalize their ego in service to the humor. Think of all the horrific and embarrassing things Sacha Baron Cohen’s done in his career just to make you laugh. Or Johnny Knoxville or Bruce Vilanch. These guys do what needs doing in service to comedy. Winter and Reeves absolutely sacrifice their egos to make us laugh in Bill & Ted Face the Music. Keanu Reeves’ marketability as an action hero probably isn’t served by getting into a fat suit and looking ridiculous while running around Dave Grohl’s house but here he is, doing it for the sake of a laugh. Forget action hero, the guy’s a comedy hero. I guess Chris Hemsworth kind of did the whole, action hero switches to fat suit comedy turn first… Whatever, Keanu rules.

SPOILERS:

Early on it was pretty obvious that Bill & Ted’s daughters (who’re also named Bill & Ted) would be the prophetic Preston and Logan responsible for uniting the world and saving reality. This isn’t at all a let down, it’s just easily forecasted. They recruit a musical super group including Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, Mozart (about time, Amadeus was unjustifiably passed over for Beethoven and Bach to represent classical music in the previous films IMHO) and others to fill out the band AND they go to hell and back successfully retracing their fathers adventurous journeys in one clean arc.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is extremely entertaining, and I think that’s all it wanted to be. It’s been a shitty year and it’s going to be a while before it gets better. We’re going through some of the most difficult times in American history and we can’t do it alone. We don’t have it as easy as Bill & Ted. We can’t go back and get Freud or Socrates to help us through, as every corporate marketing strategist calls it, these troubling times. We have to rely on our neighbors and each other to be patient, kind, and (perhaps most important of all) excellent to each other. For me, for at least one night, for at least 90 minutes, Bill & Ted saved my reality. Thanks dudes.

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