I recently spent probably a year trying to arrange for some friends of mine to see the first two Bill And Ted movies for the first time. Then, a few weeks ago, eventually, my hometown had a screening of them, so we and another couple of friends got to see them on the big screen (first time on the big screen for all of us, though I might have seen Bogus Journey that way).
A while later, me and the same friends (minus one, who’d already seen it) saw the recent sequel.
We all enjoyed it; one of my friends absolutely loved it and raved about it. Every review I’ve read of it (admittedly, not many), has said that it’s a highly enjoyable, funny movie, and that we need such a thing in these trying times. I’m not gonna disagree.
One of the things that I’ve always loved about he first two Bill and Ted movies is that they’re so good-spirited. They’re never mean to anybody, the titular boys live up to their credo of ‘be excellent to each other’, and are never cruel. The worst they get is when somebody threatens them.
That pleasant atmosphere carries through into Face The Music. Even the traditional Hollywood parent/grown child dynamic is reversed: instead of the daughters thinking their parents are lame and stupid, they’re their fathers’ biggest supporters.*
However, it comes with a huge caveat: sometimes, watching a later movie in the franchise, I wonder if the creators of this iteration even saw the original; the Prequels spring to mind. And, there can be only one. The trouble comes when I know for a fact that the creators of the latest version are the creators of the original. This is such a movie.
The first two are about a couple of young guys who start a band that’s destined to change the world through their music. They end with a series of newspaper/magazine covers showing them doing exactly that. All this is ignored in Face The Music – and yet it’s directly referenced, as canon (“You played the Grand Canyon”).
Suddenly, it’s all about the Logan-Preston writing duo – which had never been talked about in that way before. It’s about that one song that’s going to ‘unite all time and space’. The first two movies were never about ‘one song’, they were about the band’s music in general. And in the second, especially, we see that the band is more than the two boys; it’s the Elizabeth and Joanna, and Death, and Station, and the Good Robot Usses. (Station and the Good Robot Usses are entirely forgotten by the movie, except Station’s name being used as slang once, as a call-back.)
One of the side-effects of this is, I can never quite believe that they’ll succeed. Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey showed them succeeding, and now Face The Music tosses all that aside and says ‘no they didn’t, they never!’; so why can’t they just toss aside this movie’s ending and say ‘no, that didn’t work either, now they have to–‘?
I always put a section about Christian representation in my reviews. This movie is extremely unusual; it actually has Jesus himself as an extended cameo.
I’m not sure I can call the portrayal respectful (though it’s definitely not mean-spirited). I’m not even sure if I should be offended or not (the worst I can say, I think, is that it’s theologically bad). But I am sure of this:
It’s really, really funny.
Also, He is shown not only walking on water, but also knowing how to deal with a fever.
Here’s the big thing about this movie that did get to me, though. If I’d seen the same movie in 2000, I wouldn’t have said this, but I saw it in Current Year™, so:
It feels like the movie was made just to take away the boys’ victory from the second movie, and give it to their daughters. Because it’s Current Year™, it feels like somebody said ‘Oh, no, we let some white males be heroes! We must do something about it!’ So they made their daughters the real writers of that one song. Even though, in the earlier movies, it was about their music in general. Even though, the Bogus Journey magazine covers. Even though the future guys had pictures and statues of Bill and Ted as the Great Ones – while they were their ages in the first movies. (They’re still the ones who played the song; if you can narrow that down to a couple of people.)
(Meaning, they’d saved the world through their music long before their daughters had grown up.) This really undermines the first two movies, especially Bogus Journey.
They did the same thing with a mythical Chinese figure, Ling Lu, the father of Chinese music, and portrayed him as female. They even drew attention to it. (And I’d totally heard of him before this movie, and didn’t have to look him up.) Because, uh, reasons?
The pair look especially old and haggard. I suspect make-up and lighting choices cause this (I’ve seen Keanu looking better than this recently), and I suspect it’s part of making them less the heroes of the show.
Weirdly, we see a very, very old version of the pair in the movie, and I thought that old man Keanu would’ve worked better in the part than the late-middle-aged one we got.
That said, though, none of this comes across as mean or harsh; Bill and Ted were never intellectual giants (as Noah’s wife could attest), and they’re no dumber in this movie (though their fate if their daughters didn’t save them is less than salubrious). The movie isn’t kicking them and stealing their lunch money… it’s just stealing their lunch money.
This is probably a movie the world needs right now – but I don’t think it’s a movie the franchise needs. The movie is enjoyable for pretty much anybody, but mostly people who don’t have a strong attachment to the first two. I did enjoy it – a lot – but it could’ve been a better follow-up.
* This wasn’t my observation, it was a friend’s, but I agree with it.