I don’t know about you, but I’ve been getting a lot out of the Keanu Reeves renaissance. In the words of one of my lecturers, ‘he never went away’, but the cult of fans surrounding the man has undoubtedly increased in size over the past year or so – why is this? Well, he’s always had a reputation as a lovely, generous guy, so couple that with the success of the John Wick franchise and his contradictorily delightful persona in recent interviews and its easy to see how people have grappled onto Reeves. Of course, this has lead to increased interest from zoomers (i.e. me) in his older projects – as something of a Keanu fan myself, I’ve recently indulged in some of the earlier works in his filmography, specifically Dangerous Liasons and the Bill and Ted films. While the former is wonderfully acerbic, cerebral cinema that meditates on love, reputation, and deception, the latter is Bill and Ted – I’d be hard pressed to choose which I prefer. Therefore, when I received a press email about a third instalment, I knew it’d be on my reviewing schedule.
In case you didn’t know, Bill S. Preston and Ted Logan are sweet but slow slackers who inexplicably lead the world to a golden age through the music of their band Wyld Stallyns. Only they haven’t done it yet, and three decades since the first film the inhabitants of the 2600s are starting to be concerned as to whether they will. With the help of their daughters, Billie and Thea, they must finally write the song that will unite the universe, travelling through time, space, heaven and hell to do so. I love that this was released (likely inadvertently) so close to Tenet – where Nolan’s work insists upon making the logic of time travel integral to the plot, Bill and Ted uses it as a fun device to take you along for the ride, while simultaneously not worrying too much about the specifics. The result is that I’m actually looking back far more fondly on Bill and Ted 3, which actually uses several of the concepts of Tenet without even drawing attention to it; truly the best reflection of the idiot savants that helm the franchise.
As has been the case previously, it is the cast that makes this film work. I know I began this review by talking about Keanu Reeves, but that isn’t to ignore Alex Winter as Bill, who more than matches Reeves in screen presence and charm. In fact, I was glad that they didn’t prioritise scenes with Keanu in this film; everything about the duo was equal, as it always has been and always should be. But honestly, the titular characters weren’t in most of my favourite scenes – to me at least, their daughters, played by Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving, completely stole the show. The scenes where they go back in time to meet famous musicians of history were an absolute blast, and both of them completely nailed the mannerisms of their fathers, perhaps taking them to even greater comedic heights. In terms of supporting roles, William Sadler returns with his brilliantly pathetic yet uncanny take on the Grim Reaper, and Anthony Carrigan was a great newcomer to the series as a killer robot that will seemingly stop at nothing to eradicate Bill and Ted.
The only issues I truly had with the film were to do with it’s aesthetics, which to me lacked a certain grime that made the original two so memorable. The historical periods they travel to in Excellent Adventure and the hellscape explored in Bogus Journey were both created through rather cheap looking practical effects that added to the charm and silliness of the films, which almost felt like B-movies. In contrast, Face The Music has a far more polished look, using mostly CGI to convey the different areas and technologies. In 2020, this is likely the cheaper option of the two, but the sterile look left me a little cold compared to the frayed hems of the original two. Fortunately, this was a minor gripe that hardly affected my enjoyment of the movie – everything else was Most Excellent, and exactly what I needed right now as the world continues to flail and struggle. If only we lived in the Bill and Ted utopia promised in 1989.