Having bested history class, medieval execution, Death and other challenges besides, Bill and Ted face tougher assignments in their return. Aside from pronounced COVID-era expectations of uplift, can these historical dudes beat the curse of comedy threequels, the dangers of the decades-on comeback, and middle age? The answer, happily, is a gently disarmed “yes way”: even if Face The Music is good-natured rather than sharply witty, it mixes old riffs and fresh variations with a pacey, goofy and eager charm that’s harder to resist than old flannel-wear.
Long after Bogus Journey’s triumphant climax, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have lost their momentum. In couples therapy with their wives, they also, it transpires, still need to write the song that saves reality. As they plan to time-travel and steal said ditty from their future selves, their kids Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) pitch in, visiting the past to conscript stellar musical back-up.
Wise to time’s passage, that two-stranded plot is a smart play from returning writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. While Winter re-inhabits Bill as easily as old jeans, Reeves isn’t as easily confused with Ted as he once was. He’s game enough, riffing on the role playfully as Bill/Ted confront their variably ridiculous older selves, and the duo’s classic clown chemistry holds. But in case any slack emerges, the kids are ready and able to take it up. While Weaving summons Winter’s goggle-eyed ebullience, the revelatory Lundy-Paine aces Ted’s mannerisms in every joyous, show-stealing detail.
As these chips off the old blockheads honour modern expectations by corralling a nicely diverse supergroup (from Mozart to Kid Cudi, with some fun surprises in between), a virtual Bill and Ted best-of merits our indulgence elsewhere. Easter eggs, random temporal shifts, confused expressions, and big-hearted cameos mount, generously. Along the way, high points include Anthony Carrigan’s hapless robot assassin and William Sadler’s deliciously daft Death, here reminiscing warmly about his epic Wyld Stallyns bass solos.
That tone of sweetly fuzzy nostalgia lingers, with fewer killer zingers and time-travel gags than before. But director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) keeps things lightly brisk, sprinting to a finale that’s predictable and rushed but amiable and welcome in its modestly dealt themes of friendship and unity. If it leads to more from Billie and Thea, that would be outstanding. As for their “most excellent dads”, the daffy duo do their kids proud right to the post-credits scene: a last(?), cheering hurrah from two dudes whose bond abides.