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Bill & Ted 3: Not Quite Excellent

It's more of a pleasant stroll than an exhilarating trip.

30 years is a long time to wait for a bit of fan service. OK, 88 minutes of fan service, but I think you get the meaning. The long-gestating, often-promised third entry in the Bill & Ted franchise — Bill & Ted Face the Music — is finally here. And it’s…fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine. (If I keep saying that, it makes it true, right?)

It’s been three decades since Bill (Alex Winter) & Ted’s (Keanu Reeves) triumphant concert at the end of their Bogus Journey, and the glory days of their band Wyld Stallyns are far behind them. Even worse, they still haven’t released the song that’s going to unite the world and usher in a futuristic utopia. This is a problem that must be rectified quickly. Like, within the next 77 minutes. Bill & Ted are informed by a messenger from the future that time and reality are starting to fold in on itself, and it’s up to them to come up with a song to stop it by uniting the world.

But Bill & Ted aren’t entirely alone in this adventure. While the duo scours their own future for a point where they’ve written the song so they can take it back with them, their daughters Thea (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundy-Payne) do their own time-hopping to collect history’s most talented musicians for a most excellent back-up band. Allegedly wacky hijinks ensue.

Bill & Ted’s Family Adventure

OK, let me just start off by saying that I don’t want to seem like I’m coming down too hard on the film. It’s charming, it’s honestly fun, and it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. The soundtrack is killer. And if you’re a fan of the original films as I am, it’s just pretty damn cool to see Bill & Ted in action again.

However, I can’t stress enough that 30 years is a very, very long time to wait for the loose, unfocused, occasionally messy film we got. There is a lot going on in the film’s short runtime, and nearly every plot thread feels truncated and unexplored. Some just get dropped unceremoniously, while others get a wholly anti-climactic resolution. There’s no real, solid antagonist and even the main threat, that of reality imploding in on itself, never really seems that heavy or important. Even for a film that’s billed as a comedy, that seems like a major oversight.

That brings me to the next point. The comedy. It’s just…not really there. There are plenty of highly amusing moments, a few of which are even laugh-out-loud-worthy. The opening scene sets a high bar, with a washed-up Bill & Ted debuting their latest attempt at a song to unite the world, a chaotic and pretentious prog-rock miasma involving a theremin, throat singing, and electronic drums. Being played at a wedding. For Ted’s younger brother and Missy, who was Bill’s stepmom before she was Ted’s stepmom. The longer the scene goes on, the more uncomfortably hilarious it becomes.

Something Keanu, something blue.

But this is a height the rest of the film rarely reaches or even attempts to. Much of the rest of the humor revolves around Bill & Ted’s relatively nonplussed, surfer/stoner reactions to their increasingly bizarre and dangerous circumstances. Most of which is mirrored by their daughters, who are essentially gender-swapped versions of their fathers but with the Gen-Z music geek bonafides that given them a unique sense of agency and purpose. The vibe both duos exemplify is easy to sync into, but it rarely goes anywhere. It’s more of a pleasant stroll than an exhilarating trip.

What makes the film as enjoyable as it is despite everything is its cast, who uniformly seem like they’re having a great time and are very much into the groove. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves slip back into Bill & Ted’s skin as if they never left, which is especially impressive in Reeves case. After playing Neo and John Wick, Ted Logan seems almost beneath him, but Reeves’ performance is sincere and endearing. Both actors also do a great job of portraying variations of their characters at different points in their future, from bitter has-beens to muscle-bound convicts.

Samara Weaving and Brigitte Lundy-Payne both perfectly mimic the delivery and chemistry of their cinematic fathers while giving their rapport a unique color and dynamic. As the film switches between the two pairs in their respective stories, it almost seems like we’re getting two Bill & Ted movies in one. As for the rest of the supporting cast, the most notable performance comes from William Sadler, reprising his role as Death from the previous film. Sadler is one of the best parts of the film, effortlessly sympathetic and funny. It’s a shame it takes so long for him to show up, but once he’s there, the film finally comes fully to life (ironically enough).

Behold a pale former member of Wyld Stallyns.

Bill and Ted Face the Music occupies an interesting duality, being both a welcome piece of entertainment while also being somewhat of a disappointment. It just seems a long time to wait for something that too often feels a little flat and thin. It really comes off as a 10-part web series stitched together to make a feature. It’s low energy but also low commitment, so it’s easy to get into and easy to get entertained by. I just wish there was more to it than the admittedly welcome nostalgia it offers. It isn’t heinous by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t truly excellent, either. Sorry, dudes. Wyld Stallyns still rule, though.

FBOTU Score: 6 out of 10 / C+

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