PG-13 and I'm not really sure why. There is a potential future where Ted becomes an alcoholic. I'm not exactly sure if it comes across as serious. I suppose everyone is killed and goes to Hell, but it's a hilarious and adorable version of Hell. It's not like any of it has a tone that is serious. Maybe, MAYBE, you could consider the killer robot scary for a little bit. But there's very little here that is really and truly objectionable. It kind of feels PG-13 because it's live-action. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Dean Parisot
I'm going to lay it out there: I've never been a big Bill & Ted fan. I know. That seems like it's the snobbery talking. I do have quite a reserve of snobbery in my wine cellar (I don't have a wine cellar. I have a basement full of vintage video games). But I've seen them. I can now even say that I've seen them all. I think it was because my dad thought that these movies looked phenomenally dumb (he was probably right) that he never took us to see them. But I remember that one summer in Brighton, MI, I rented both Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and shotgunned both of them. And I giggled a few times. I mean, nothing really blew my mind, but it was a decent time. I just never really understood what the appeal of these movies were.
While I still am not on board the Bill & Ted train, I can kind of / sort of respect Bill & Ted Face the Music. This is yet another one of those nostalgia sequels that my generation loves so much. There's a big ol' gap since the last movie and we want to see where these characters, played by the original actors, ended up. Sure, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey really secured the absurd plot in place. For those not in the know, using Doctor Who's time traveling phone box as a point of parody, these two dopes from San Dimas, California, good natured and obsessed with rock 'n roll, were destined to be the best band in the history of bands. Their music tastes seemed pretty simplistic and the joke lies in the absurdity that a band named Wyld Stallyns would change the world. But that last movie ended with that exact thing happening. There was this mega show where the personification of Death played bass and the entire world watched. Face the Music takes a lot of time to undo this epic finale, implying that both Bill and Ted shared fifteen minutes of fame and then failed to make any real, lasting cultural impact. Okay, fine. It seems like that doesn't make a lot of sense, but you need to give the protagonists some conflict to overcome while adding to the greater mythology. I get it.
But what I realized about Bill and Ted as protagonists is that they are characters we genuinely root for. Yeah, they're the archetypal lovable buffoons. Everything they do is actually pretty wholesome. We get that in Face the Music when they see possible futures and how horrible they behave. The reason that those jokes work is because of the juxtaposition from where they are now to where they will be in a reasonably short period of time. Listen, I'm going to spiral into some pretty nerdy time-travel stuff in a second and I want to provide insight into why this movie is mostly successful before I tear apart some pretty nerdy minutiae. But Face the Music accomplishes something that the first two movies really wanted to, but never actually did:
They made it about the music. I just read a headline when I was looking for images that stated that Bill & Ted Face the Music fails because of the music. Yeah, I will say that the music in this movie is criminally uninspired. For all the talk about being music lovers, the soundtrack is super forgettable. But that doesn't mean that the movie doesn't appreciate music in a way that the first two films only talked about. Now, if we look back at the central conceit, there was supposed to be this band that united the world. It is Zepham Cochrane's rocket from Star Trek: First Contact. I always have a problem when writers have a genius character who must be the smartest person imaginable. By that implication, the author has to be the smartest person imaginable or else the story doesn't work. I'm flummoxed that people can write Fantastic Four or Doctor Who with this knowledge under my belt. But Tenacious D really nailed it with their song "Tribute". There's no possible way to write the Greatest Song in the World because 1) music is hella subjective and 2) someone would have done it and not saved it for the third entry in the Bill & Ted franchise. Okay, fine. When Billie and Thea start playing the music, it may be uninspired. But what it does is remind us that it isn't necessarily the quality of the song, but the passion behind it. Yeah, it's a little bit goofy that everyone in the world has some degree of musical talent, but I really like that the entire world unites to play one song. That's fun and kind of makes me really want to pick up an instrument. And, that, my friends, is the point of the movie. It's not that I want to listen to Bill & Ted Face the Music; it's that it makes me want to create. So for all of its posturing about rock 'n roll, it's really a movie about passion.
Yeah, I should have ended the blog there. After all, I'm writing for a while now and I might lose all this content because I'm writing without having the safety net of the Internet behind this, but I do have to talk about time travel. I shouldn't be deep diving into these kinds of movies because the Bill & Ted movies have always been remarkably flimsy when it comes to plot. But I always get a little annoyed by the rules established in a time travel movie. Time travel movies should have one rule: follow its own rules. At one point in the movie, because the boys needed to be successful, they simply are. Their dumb plan, which the script keeps insisting shouldn't work, just does. Kind of. For all of the plot and mythology that Face the Music lays down, the plot keeps taking a backseat to the theme of "Space and reality don't matter if you can't love your family." Okay, fine. But that being said, Bill and Ted come up with an idea to borrow the Greatest Song in the World from themselves in the future instead of having to write it themselves. You know, the old Bootstrap Paradox? (Sorry, Lauren, for mentioning the Bootstrap Paradox again.) The boys quickly discover after multiple visits to the future that no future version of them (how do they exist if reality has fallen apart?) have written it and the very act of trying to steal the music has doomed civilization. Yet, they keep pushing forwards. They keep going further and further into their own futures in the hopes that their older selves would have written it. The message of this is that they can't just pawn off the act of writing to a time travel contrivance. But lo-and-behold, their oldest selves have the song. After spending most of the movie trying to get their older selves to give it to them, it just happens? So how did all of those dark Bill and Teds come into existence? I know that there's a line about possible futures and infinite pasts, but that's not really an answer.
Which all leads me to the final conclusion: Bill & Ted Face the Music has great themes and a great tone, but with an awful plot. I want to talk about how their daughters are the true rock stars and how great certain elements of this movie are, but you'll pick up on that. Instead, the movie begs you not to think too hard about it, but instead feel how it works to be a great film. It's my favorite of the series, but that isn't necessarily saying much.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.