After a few decades of false starts and dashed hopes, it was a huge relief when the third Bill & Ted movie went into production. Following the surprise cult hit of 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, along with its decidedly non-heinous sequel Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (which followed in 1991), a third Bill & Ted film was long mooted but seemingly doomed to be lost in production hell forever.
Nearly thirty years on from the second film, however, did we even want another film starring the lovably goofy dudes and their adventures to unite the world in peace and harmony through their music? What story was there left to tell after the uplifting climax of the second film, which seemed to put the final touches to the prophecy of the future being shaped by the world’s love of Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan – first revealed to them in the previous movie by George Carlin’s wonderfully laidback time traveller, Rufus?
Thankfully, returning screenwriters – and creators of Bill & Ted – Chris Matheson & Ed Solomon have given us a sequel that doesn’t shy away from the fact that our heroes are now middle-aged. Their globally broadcast concert from Bogus Journey failed to unite the world (or their band, leading to a falling out with the adorably sensitive, needy Grim Reaper) and in the intervening years, their band’s star has seriously waned, leaving them under pressure to write the all-powerful song that’ll truly bring the prophecy to fruition. Though their medieval wives are frustrated with how their life is turning out, their daughters have a touchingly unwavering belief that they truly have it in them to do what they need to do – yet history is unravelling and a deadline is set for them to save not only the world, but reality itself.
It’s a neat set-up and the fact that the deadline – once given – is near enough real-time over the course of the film’s duration gives it a nice sense of urgency once the duo’s mission is truly underway. It does take a little while to get going, however, with another slightly mean-spirited and inappropriate revisiting of the running gag about Missy – first Bill’s Dad’s wife in Excellent Adventure, then Ted’s Dad’s wife in Bogus Journey and now Ted’s little brother Deacon’s wife in Face the Music – that does sour the opening, along with a drawn out and not-particularly amusing marriage counselling sequence that doesn’t paint our heroes in the best light. The pair’s daughters – Samara Weaving as Thea and Brigette Lundy-Paine as Billie – both truly excel, however, lighting up the screen with their infectious, boundless enthusiasm, endless optimism and brilliant aping of Bill & Ted’s mannerisms. Their sub plot, which takes us through history as important musical figures are collected to assist with saving reality as we know it, has an obvious parallel in Bill & Ted’s first adventure – and could almost have been another movie on its own. With Bill & Ted’s own shenanigans taking place at the same time, it can’t help but feel a little disjointed and unfocused in moving between the two pairs of time travelling friends, but it does come together really nicely for the ending.
Kristen Schaal is excellent as the daughter of Rufus, who arrives from the future to give our heroes the dire news – and William Sadler is a joy to see in action once more as Death.
The effects are a mixed bunch, with some distractingly terrible greenscreen work and a really odd killer robot design that just ends up looking like a cut corner, but on the whole quite a lot is achieved on what looks like a very tight budget. Many of the practical effects – such as muscle suits and old age make-up for other Bill & Teds that we meet – are superb; they really add to the nicely old-school feel of the film too.
Though it does have its issues and stumbles a little in setting up the current situation for our heroes, there’s a lot of heart here, as well as plenty of laughs – and even a few tears, I have to say – with a finalé that’s just as uplifting as either of the climaxes from the previous two films. The soundtrack excels and the ending truly does bring the house down – it’s rousing, optimistic and genuinely heartwarming. The end credits, featuring plenty of everyday people rocking out, are a lovely touch too.
I can’t overstate how much Bill & Ted mean to me. I saw the second movie before I saw the first and instantly fell in love, seeing it multiple times on the big screen. When I caught up with the first film a short while after that, I adored it too. They’re daft, fun movies with some truly amusing uses of time travel and fantastical elements, with truly endearing performances from Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. Though the third movie doesn’t feel as if it hits the heights of the first two films, being slightly awkward in tone at times, it’s a fitting end to the trilogy and the closing sequence really does the series proud. The duo’s simple rule for a nicer world – Be Excellent To Each Other – has never been more needed than it is today. Party on, dudes.
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