Review: Dude, ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ is somewhere between bogus and excellent

Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in "Bill & Ted Face the Music."
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are back for another ripping yarn in “Bill & Ted Face the Music.”
(United Artists Releasing)

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It’s been 30 years since Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves charmed audiences as the goofy, time-traveling metal heads Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.” In the third installment, “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” Reeves and Winter revisit their quintessential burnout bestie characters in a film that offers up an easy dose of nostalgia.

In “Excellent Adventure,” Bill and Ted had to pass history class to avoid military school, which they did by assembling historic figures using a time-traveling phone booth. In “Bogus Journey,” Bill and Ted escape from hell to win the Battle of the Bands as the Wyld Stallyns. Many, many years later, they’re still holding onto those rock ‘n’ roll dreams. In “Face the Music,” scripted by original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and directed by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”), Bill and Ted face their midlife crisis.


The codependent bros haven’t grown up much over the years, which has hampered their lives with their wives, medieval princesses Joanna (Jayma Mays) and Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes), evident in a disastrous couples therapy session. They’re the proud fathers of the music-obsessed Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), but they’re far more dude than dad. But soon, time travel calls, in the form of Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their former futuristic leader Rufus (George Carlin), who tasks them with performing a song that will unite reality and prevent the timeline from collapsing in on itself. With only a few hours left, Bill and Ted harness their time-travel prowess to snatch the song from their future selves, and their journey through time will help them learn to unite their own realities with their families.

“Face the Music” has all the gravitas one might expect from a “Bill & Ted” movie, which is to say, almost none. It’s fun to watch Winter (now a prolific director) and Reeves (now John Wick) step back into these roles, though the cognitive dissonance between sweet doofus Ted and the Reeves we have come to know as a serious, laconic action star is a long leap.

Weaving and Lundy-Paine prove to be the breakouts of “Face the Music,” nailing the mannerisms of their fathers. Their chunk of the story, traveling through time to scoop up the best musicians to back the Wyld Stallyns, could (or should) have been the whole movie. Another standout is Anthony Carrigan (who plays NoHo Hank on HBO’s “Barry”) as a deadly yet neurotic robot, chasing Bill and Ted through time as they track down their various future selves in search of their reality-uniting song. His white cue-ball head is a nod to William Sadler’s incredible turn as Death in “Bogus Journey,” and Sadler reprises the role here, as do franchise veterans Hal Landon Jr. as Chief Logan and Amy Stoch as omnipresent stepmother Missy.

Although one shouldn’t expect realism, what rings false is the casting of Hayes and Mays as the duo’s wives. They’re over a decade younger than Reeves and Winter, as well as the two different sets of actresses who played the princesses in the prior films, and the age difference makes it feel like a particularly bad brand of Hollywood time travel.

As Bill and Ted bounce through time, the narratives of these films are merely loose assortments of kooky bits and cameos, and “Face the Music” doesn’t stray from that. While it doesn’t quite gel cohesively, in this casual kickback with a pair of old pals, it’s the dudes who remain excellent.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.


‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’

Rating: PG-13, for some language

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Mission Tiki Drive-In, Montclair and Rubidoux Tri-Plex Drive-in, West Riverside; also available on PVOD and digital platforms, and in general release where theaters are open