Bill & Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot, 2020)
At the tail end of the 1980s was a science fiction comedy, which was just about silly enough — two Californian slacker dudes have to pass their assignment to guarantee the future and are aided in doing so by a man from the future with a time travelling phone box.
I’m not sure we knew what a Keanu Reeves was back then — I think My Own Private Idaho was a bit later — and we might have recognised Alex Winter from The Lost Boys. George Carlin hadn’t made it across the Atlantic. But Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a fun time travel comedy, with some nice culture shock and the leads were adorbs — and an almost inevitable sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey didn’t stuff up the franchise.
Reeves disappeared into stardom — through Speed, The Matrix and John Wick — and Alex Winter, well, he seemed to disappear. Recent interviews suggest that he was working through some trauma, but he wouldn’t be the first or the last young star to burn out after a couple of hits.
In the past few years we’ve had some long delayed sequels — Tron Legacy and Blade Runner 2049 — and we could have survived without them. Bill & Ted III has apparently been on the cards for ten years, but it struggled to find distribution deals. So lovable loser teens are now lovable loser twenty-somethings, with wives (from the Middle Ages) and children — Thea and Billie — and someone from the future comes to tell the two friends that they have to write the song that not only will save the future, but all of space and time.
The pressure gets too much, so Bill and Ted decide to travel into the future and steal the song from themselves, whilst Thea and Billie reprise the earlier movies by assembling a supergroup of musicians and ending up in hell. Meanwhile, the world’s least convincing terminator is sent to kill them.
I had high hopes for this — Dean Parisot, after all, is the man behind Galaxy Quest, an sf film that manages to successfully parody sf, and that skewers and celebrates fandom, with career defining roles for Tim Allen, Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. But there’s something just not quite on the beat with this — perhaps the feeling that the leads have aged alarmingly, that the set pieces aren’t quite sharp enough, that Thea and Billie just don’t quite work… The Terminator, who has hints of RoboCop, just seems too useless and perhaps too like Death in characterisation.
It does, however, deal with time paradoxes better than Tenet.
And there’s a post credit sequence, with a certain amount of pathos.