Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Next Generation Steal the Show In Bill & Ted Face the Music


Quick, name me a good comedy sequel that isn't 22 Jump Street. If you're struggling to name one, it's not because your memory is faulty. Comedy sequels just don't have that great of a track record, particularly ones made in the last decade or so. Ted 2, Horrible Bosses 2, even Anchorman 2 couldn't recapture the magic of the original Anchorman. Given the terrible track record these movies have procured, it's no surprise Bill & Ted Face the Music rises to the upper echelon of comedy sequels despite being just a pleasant distraction in its own right.

It's normal teenage ambitions for adulthood to not quite go the way we planned. But that process is a little different for Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves). They were once told they would write the song that unites the world. Flash forward to three decades after their original two movies and they're still trying to make that tune. They haven't quite hit their goal yet despite the encouragement of their daughters Theadora (Samara Weaving) and Billie (Brigette Lundie-Paine). However, their mission gets taken to a new level of importance when a visitor from the future, Kelly (Kristen Schaal), informs them they've only 77 minutes to come up with that song or else all of reality will be torn apart. The clock is ticking and now both Bill & Ted and their daughters are off on a mission to save the universe as we know it.

Like many comedy sequels, Face the Music follows storytelling territory similar to its predecessors. Bill & Ted's antics to travel to the future when they have written their famous song are relatively unique. However, Bill & Ted's daughters are basically doing their own variation on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure's gimmick of rubbing shoulders with various historical figures. Meanwhile, a robot assassin from the future is soon sent to kill Bill & Ted, a development that should be familiar to those who saw Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. Any hopes that Face the Music would be informed by the bold weirdness that marked the refreshingly different Bogus Journey go most unfulfilled.

Also taking a step down from the previous movies is the photography of Bill & Ted Face the Music. The first two films weren't devoid of dated VFX, but for the most part, they managed to have a sharp visual style, particularly in regards to the production design of Bogus Journey. Face the Music, meanwhile, is plagued by distracting green-screen work, an issue carried over from director Dean Parisot's last project, Red 2. Fully CGI sets representing the future and Hell look like they belong in a PlayStation 2 video game. On a more upbeat note, the practical effects work, particularly the costume used for the robot assassin character, looks rock-solid.

If it sounds like I found Bill & Ted Face the Music to be most non-awesome, that's really not the case. There's still plenty to commend in here, particularly the lack of fixing what isn't broken in the screenplay by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Both of them return from from the first two Bill & Ted outings and eschew any attempts to up the raunch or hipness of these movies to make them fit into the modern comedy movie landscape. Juxtaposing wholesomeness with the last people you'd ever expect to demonstrate that quality and witty dialogue remain the primary vehicles through which Bill & Ted create comedy. Those turn out to be still viable sources for laughs.

It's also a pleasure to see that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter still fit so snugly into these roles. My worries that seeing 50-year-old men behave like teenage himbo's from the 80s wouldn't work vanished a few minutes into Face the Music. These two are fun enough to watch that their personalities work at any age. Even more noteworthy is the turns delivered by Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as the daughters of Bill & Ted. Both capture the mannerisms of their parents nicely but they also have such great comic timing in their own right. Their performances, as well as hysterical supporting work from Anthony Carrigan, scored the biggest laughs of the movie 

It's all a touch too familiar but the amiable performances and steady amount of chuckles ensure that Bill & Ted Face the Music works as a fine time-waster. It's totally more agreeable than excellent, but hey, that puts it heads and shoulders above Men in Black II, right?

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