Why You Should Watch the Goofy and Optimistic 'Bill & Ted' Threequel

It's totally predictable and very sweet.

bill & ted

On some level, Bill & Ted Face the Music should feel like a cynical exercise. After all, it's a years-late reboot hinging on nostalgia for a cult classic that hinged on two youthful leads who are now well into middle age. But I'm absolutely pleased to report that the latest adventure of Alex Winter's Bill S. Preston Esq. and Keanu Reeves' Ted Theodore Logan is pretty rad, dudes and dudettes.

It's a sweet little caper that, despite being totally predictable, is the kind of warm and fuzzy thing that goes down great right about now. The movie is decidedly optimistic, almost to the point of naiveté, but it cuts that with some bittersweet musings on aging and accomplishment. But there I go, making it sound all heady. It's mostly just a goofy affair packed with time travel antics. So do you need to have seen the other Bill & Ted movies? And how do Reeves and Winter fare stepping back into their old roles? Let's break it all down.  

bill & ted and death

What's Bill & Ted Face the Music about? 

In a brief prologue narrated by Bill and Ted's daughters, Thea and Billie, we learn that Bill and Ted's band Wyld Stallions, which debuted the song that they assumed would unite the world at the end of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, is no longer a chart-topping act. Now, Bill and Ted are 50-somethings with attachment issues who are still desperately trying to write a perfect piece of music. Their latest attempt involves a theremin and bagpipes. On top of that, their marriages to the two princesses from medieval England they met in the first movie are also on the rocks, largely because they can't seem to disassociate from one another. Couples therapy means both couples and they can't seem to use the word "I," only "we."

Soon our excellent twosome is visited by a messenger from the future: Kelly, the daughter of George Carlin's Rufus, who brings them to the future where her mother (Holland Taylor) informs them that they will save reality that very night by performing a song created by "Preston and Logan" at a specific time and place. So Bill and Ted set about bouncing forward in time to meet disappointing future versions of themselves in hopes of finding that all-important tune. Meanwhile, Thea and Billie, who have inherited their fathers' slacker vibes and genial personalities, go on their own adventure collecting the best musicians throughout the ages to accompany their dads. 

Do I need to have seen the other Bill & Ted movies? 

Frankly, it's probably not entirely necessary to have seen the previous two Bill & Ted movies -- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey -- to get the drift of what's going on here, but you'd also be missing out if you haven't. From the very first moments of the film, written by Bill & Ted creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, there are callbacks to the lore. Remember Missy, who was Bill's stepmother in Excellent Adventure and Ted's in Bogus Journey? Well, she's back and she's marrying another family member. Rufus, played by the late George Carlin, hangs over the entire plot. (Though, thankful, he does not appear in CGI form. In fact, it would have been better if director Dean Parisot had kept things low-fi, but alas there are some shabby looking digital sequences.) Also, if you've never seen Bogus Journey you miss out on the introduction of William Sadler's delightful interpretation of Death, who, once again, plays a large role and has some petty grievances.   

bill & ted kid cudi

How are Winter and Reeves in their old roles?

I must admit: It's thoroughly weird watching Keanu Reeves try to slide back into Ted's vocal fry. While Winter can almost eerily convey his younger persona, Reeves has developed a gravitas over the years that is almost un-Ted like. Try to imagine Ted by way of John Wick. But it makes sense in context. Bill just goes with the flow, relatively chill with the most disappointing versions of his future. Ted, on the other hand, is more and more combative -- angry at what life could become. Regardless, there's something so comforting about their easy chemistry. Really, the only reason this got made was because the actors are real-life friends and that sweetness runs through the whole movie.  

How about the newcomers? 

Samara Weaving and Brigitte Lundy-Paine, as Thea and Billie, have the odd and difficult task of trying to evoke Winter and and Reeves without coming off as corny knock-offs. Unlike, Bill and Ted, Thea and Billie aren't even trying to make music. They just like to listen to just about everything. It's a sly but savvy amendment: They are of-their-time musical omnivores, less interested in rocking hard than cutting samples. Weaving, a standout from Ready or Not, wears the slightly dim smile well, but it's Lundy-Paine who manages to truly channel their on-screen pops. The real scene stealer however is Anthony Carrigan -- Barry's Noho Hank -- as a killer robot. I won't say more so as not to spoil things, but it's a stellar turn, once again proving that Carrigan is a comedic force. 

Is Kid Cudi involved? 

A question you were surely asking! But, yes. He plays a strangely pivotal role. 

Is there a post-credits scene? 

Also yes. Thankfully, it's not a teaser for more as this wraps things up pretty neatly, but it is a cute bow on the movie. 

Awesome. Where can I watch this? 

In theaters where they are open, but also on VOD in the comfort of your own home, where you can play your air guitar without fear of COVID or judgment.   

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.