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Part of me thinks it’s odd that we now have a Bill & Ted trilogy. Then again, there are eight Police Academy movies, so franchise math doesn’t always compute in Hollywood. What I mean by “odd,” though, is that loosey-goosey best buds Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) don’t possess many of the qualities on which we expect a franchise to be built. They don’t have super powers. They’re not gear heads embarking on covert CIA missions. In fact, they’re not particularly great at anything, despite visitors from the future often telling them it’s their destiny to unite the world in song.

More than anything, Bill and Ted are just cool dudes we kind of enjoying spending time with. And that casual vibe of friendship and determination serves as a welcome mat for Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-in-the-making sequel that reunites Winter and Reeves in the lead roles for the first time since 1991’s peculiar Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. You remember, the one where they played Twister against Death (William Sadler) while evil, robot versions of them wrecked havoc. The parts still fit Reeves and Winter, though Face the Music needs a few minutes to find its proper groove, and the sequel eventually plays a tune that will make fans of the franchise happy they got the band back together.

Bill And Ted Face The Music has more heart than the previous two movies.

Just like its protagonists, the Bill & Ted franchise has matured. Bill and Ted are fathers now, and they attend couples’ therapy with the princesses. Wyld Stallyns still perform, though they’ve failed at writing the song that’s meant to bring the world together… and the strain of that pressure is prompting Ted to quit the duo.

Before he can walk, the men are visited by Kelly (Kristen Schall), an emissary from the future who carries a warning: Bill and Ted have 78 minutes to finally deliver that infamous track, or reality as they know it will fold in on itself. So the guys do what they’ve done for two previous installments – they hop in a time machine and kind of cheat to accomplish their goals. Instead of going back in time to pass History, the duo leaps to the future where they hope to acquire the song from themselves. As you might guess, things go wrong.

On this journey, though, co-screenwriters Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson use the amiable duo to reflect on heavier themes that can plague middle-aged men. Bill and Ted wrestle with the weight off failed expectations. They love their music-loving daughters, but wonder if they’ve been worthy role models for them. They’ve gone from Excellent and Bogus to angsty, but it gives Reeves and Winter new dimensions with which to play.

Bill & Ted Face The Music starts to connect, though, when the leads start to share the “stage” with their daughters, played to perfection by Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) and Brigette Lundy-Paine (Atypical). Its heartwarming to see our beloved time-traveling bros become caring, supportive fathers. It elevates this sequel to a tender spot that wouldn’t have been expected at the end of Bogus Journey.

Bill And Ted Face The Music is every bit as weird as Bogus Journey.

It’s important to note that while it’s more mature, Bill & Ted Face The Music can still be immature, in a giddy way. The best part about the immediate sequel Bogus Journey is that it never tried to replicate what worked about the original movie. It carved its own path while relying on the chemistry shared between Reeves and Winter.

The same goes for Face The Music. While Bill and Ted encounter convict versions of their future selves, Billie (Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Weaving) trip through history to recruit an all-star band, pitstopping in Hell for an hilarious reunion with Death (Sadler) and the inclusion of the film’s show stopper, Dennis Caleb McCoy (Anthony Carrigan), a gut-bustingly funny cyborg criminal tasked with stopping the lead duo from completing their mission. Every scene involving Dennis get more bizarre, and his presence is never not funny. It was worth bringing Bill & Ted back just to introduce Dennis into this world.

All in all, Bill & Ted Face The Music is a welcome return for the goofy franchise. It’s not a Greatest Hits compilation, and that’s a good thing. By attempting to blaze its own trail, Face The Music starts off clunky, but finds its sweet spot, and delivers good laughs and big heart in a very tight 88-minute package. To quote Bill, it’s not not heinous.

7 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five
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