Destiny isn’t the only thing which weighs heavily on Bill And Ted Face The Music (2020)

One of the main things I was curious about when “Bill And Ted Face The Music” was announced was how they’d carve out room for another adventure having apparently resolved the Wyld Stallyn’s ascent to society-saving stardom at the end of (and during the end credits) of “Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey”. I’m pleased, and pleasantly surprised, to be able to say writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have not only found room for another adventure with our favourite San Dimas slackers but, in a nod to Randy Meeks’ rules of a trilogy, revealed that something we were sure of in the beginning wasn’t what we thought it was.

Twenty-five years after winning the San Dimas Battle Of The Bands and rocketing to global stardom, the Wyld Stallyns have faded into obscurity, all the while trying in vain to write the song that will unite the world. Finding themselves middle-aged and realising their wives are unhappy, Ted confesses to Bill that he no longer believes they will ever write the song. But when Kelly, Rufus’ daughter, arrives from the future to warn them that unless they write the song by 7:17pm that night, reality itself will collapse.

One of the things I liked was that Bill and Ted remain talented musicians and while the song they play at Missy’s latest wedding may not be to the guests’ tastes, I thought it was pretty good. Not unite-humanity-good, but interesting and eclectically catchy nonetheless. The film also takes its cue from the pair’s musical stylings, as it samples, remixes and reiterates the previous two films’ plots, creating a mash-up that’s equal parts excellent and bogus. There’s the plot which follows our eponymous heroes, another strand which follows their daughters, Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Theadora ‘Thea’ Preston (Samara Weaving) and a third strand which features the Princesses searching for a happier life in alternate timelines. That third strand is acutely underdeveloped and suggests not so much deleted scenes as an entirely deleted storyline, retained only at the points where it intersects with Bill and Ted’s storyline.

While much has been made of the agelessness of star Keanu Reeves it has to be said, shorn of his facial hair, he does look – if not his actual age – then certainly age-appropriate for mid-40s Ted. Winter likewise has a few more miles on the clock but is clearly in better shape than he was in either of the first two movies. Even Death himself has a few more wrinkles this time around and, for me at least, he takes far too long to show up in the movie.

Both the old and new cast blend well and both Reeves and Winter recapture the essence of Bill and Ted – in their myriad forms as they travel the timelines – perfectly while Weaving and Lundy-Paine bring an appealing mix of the familiar and the fresh to the junior Bill & Ted pairing. Elsewhere, Kristen Schaal is nicely understated (given her usual schtick) as Rufus’ daughter and the film feels both respectful and celebratory of George Carlin’s dearly departed Rufus. He makes only a fleeting holographic cameo but his spirit is everywhere. The historical celebrities are less important this time around but Jimi Hendrix is fun and Louis Armstrong improves once Jeremiah Craft stops fidgeting and gurning every single second of every scene. There are flashes of historical big hitters too as really starts to fracture but my favourite gag involves a deep cut SNL sketch reference as all of eternity are kitted out with musical instruments. Of course Jesus would play cowbell.

The only addition which didn’t work at all for me was Anthony Carrigan’s neurotic, insecure robot Dennis. Irritating in the extreme, profoundly unfunny and awkward, whatever they were pitching for, it’s a swing and a miss and if there’s ever a fourth adventure for any of the Preston/ Logans, I hope Dennis isn’t back for the ride.

In the grand finale, though, the film finds the perfect way to both subvert and honour the original prophecy. What’s even better is that from the point Bill and Ted are told they only have 77 minutes to save reality, there’s 77 minutes of the film’s runtime left, which feels apposite for a franchise which has always had a somewhat loose approach to temporal mechanics. The final flourish, though, is that the exact time of the apocalypse, 7:17pm is 69,420 seconds into the day. 69? 420? Nice.