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Reviews are in for Dean Parisot’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third installment in the Bill & Ted trilogy starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter.
In the latest film, a middle-aged Bill and Ted are warned by a time traveler from the future that a concert that’s supposed to save all of space and time is going to occur in 78 minutes and the boy must create a song to save all life on Earth and the entire universe.
And in classic Bill and Ted fashion, the two go on an excellent journey meeting with their families, old friends and famous musicians to complete the task. William Sadler, Holland Taylor, Kristen Schaal, Jayma Mays, and Erinn Hayes also star in the science fiction comedy. George Carlin appears posthumously via the use of repurposed archival footage from the first two films.
For The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore notes the film “amplifies what has been one of the series’ most reliable pleasures” — not so much our heroes meeting caricatures of historical figures but instead interacting with other versions of themselves. While DeFore knocks the film for its younger-looking wives for fifty-something Bill and Ted, he notes fans will enjoy watching Ted’s daughter Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Bill’s daughter Theadore (Samara Weaving) who are “spacily good-natured as their dads.” As the critic notes, the duo “have deep musical knowledge to go with their enthusiasm” — “They can name-check Clara Rockmore for any Theremin nerds in the crowd, and dissect everything from symphonic structure to an electric-bass solo.” With their “appealing energy” and ability to mirror “the harmless goofiness” that made the ’89 and ’91 films so successful, DeFore wonders if a new wave of Thea and Billie adventures are around the corner.
Peter Travers writes in Rolling Stone that it’s “a shock at first to see middle-aged Bill and Ted reduced to playing the Elks Lodge to 40 people who are only there because it’s a $2 taco night,” later adding that the teamwork of Reeves and Winter was “irresistible.” Travers goes on to write, “… the fiftysomething actors prove that youth may be fleeting, but immaturity is a joy forever.” He calls the movie “a labor of fan-service love that slaps a goofy smile on your face,” adding that it’s a “most excellent cure for the heinous pandemic blues.”
In Collider, Matt Goldberg acknowledges that comedy sequels are tough, especially when may years have passed (it has been 29 years since Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey), but that [Dean] Parisot and screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon “turn this time gap to their advantage with the delightful and charming trilogy capper.” Goldberg goes on to write that the film maintains the sweetness and silliness of the originals, while embracing the time in between. Noting that the story works “incredibly well,” Goldberg commented on the welcome return of Reeves to the comedy scene, having cemented himself as an action star. “Face the Music shows his comedic chops remain sharp and he can still play a lovable dimwit opposite Winter, who is clearly having a ball playing Ted again.” The critic gave the movie a “B+,” encouraging viewers to “party on, dudes.”
Critic A.O. Scott writes in The New York Times that the dudes “retain their essential innocence” in the film and represent “friendly avatars of nontoxic masculinity.” But he goes on to say that the film is an “amiable, sloppy attempt to reassert the value of friendliness and crack a few jokes along the way.” Scott labeled the high point of the movie as the scene where a harpsichord and Stratocaster duet is played by Mozart and Hendrix, “a nicely conceived and executed demonstration of how genius recognizes genius.”
For CNET, Bonnie Burton called the movie a “joyous, fun, charming adventure, and a great reminder of how music can bring us all together in times of chaos.” She went on to praise the script, noting that it “actually makes sense” despite many weird and adventurous elements. For Burton, the best parts of the movie involve different versions of Bill and Ted in the future, which sees the iconic characters pretend to live in Dave Grohl’s house and attempt to pawn off a Foo Fighters song as their own. “The movie has plenty of special moments and pop culture cameos that will make Bill and Ted fans (old and new) happy they tuned in, ” says Burton, “but the real joy of the movie isn’t necessarily the nostalgia. It’s the positivity Bill and Ted ooze at every moment.”
Jim Vejvoda writes on IGN, “For a sequel that could have easily failed to recapture what had worked decades earlier, the end result is a lean but far from bogus amusement that largely delivers.” He goes on to explain that the age difference in the characters and the place they’re at in their lives “has a hint of ruefulness missing from the earlier flicks,” adding that even though the duo has concluded that the best time to be is now, the “personal and professional travails of middle age have challenged their earlier judgement.” Vejvoda decides that the spirit and energy of the original films is still apparent — along with the “doofy chemistry” of Reeves and Winter — while acknowledging the passage of time. Ultimately, the critic notes that the movie avoids “the curse of the disappointing threequel and is certainly far from Bogus.”
In Slate Magazine, Dana Stevens acknowledges the “fan-service” concept of the movie’s existence, not that she’s complaining. “Like the first two movies, this new chapter is goofy and scattershot, hanging a barely coherent sci-fi story on the sturdy peg of the audience’s abiding affection for its irresistible leads,” writes Stevens. “But that affection has ripened and deepened with time, along with the real-life friendships of both the actors who play them and the screenwriters of all three movies, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson.” She goes on to write that even though there may be missteps, plot holes and logic questions, the heart of the movie is in the right place. She praises Reeves’ talent for physical comedy, Winter’s skill with delivering some of the movie’s best lines, and the shared sense of humor and love for the characters that the two actors clearly have.
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