* * * 1/2
It’s the season of Alex Winter! Recently I reviewed his HBO documentary, Showbiz Kids. Now, as an actor, he’s back on the big screen in his signature role: Bill, who, with his friend Ted, famously had an Excellent Adventure and a Bogus Journey. Now, in their fifties, Bill and Ted Face The Music.
Ted, of course, is played by Keanu Reeves, in the role that kind of made him a star, or at least made him an icon (something that’s happened to him multiple times: his roles in The Matrix and now John Wick can claim similar status). And here, the two music-obsessed, ever-pleasant, relentlessly-chill Californian dudes are joined by their late-teen / early adult (who’s to say?) daughters, Billie and Thea, played sublimely by Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving. The apples have not fallen far from the trees, and two of the major delights of the film are Lundy-Paine and Weaving’s performances, as they perfectly reflect their Dads’ physical, vocal and emotional idiosyncrasies without ever lampooning them. Lundy-Paine in particular might as well be Keanu Reeves re-incarnated as a young woman. (Fun Fact: Samara Weaving is Hugo Weaving’s niece; Hugo Weaving played Agent Smith in The Matrix movies; here Samara’s playing Ted’s best friend’s daughter, who may as well be his niece.)
There are many, many other delights; indeed, the whole film is delightful, warm, upbeat and joyous. Every scene, and most every moment, is fun. Set in San Dimas, California, all blue skies and perfect lawns and Spielbergian suburban houses, across multiple time-frames (the thing about Bill and Ted is that they time travel), Bill and Ted Face The Music presents us with the United States of Movie Dreams, completely innocent, prosperous and at peace. This is a movie where every single one of the ‘bad guys’ turns out to be absolutely lovely after all, and everyone is constantly getting along.
Those (not-at-all) bad guys include Death, played again by William Sadler as a European bass-playing Herzog-adjacent dude-wannabe with a heart of gold; The Great Leader (Holland Taylor) who entrusts Bill and Ted with writing, or at least playing, a song to save the world; and a robot named Dennis, played beautifully by Anthony Carrigan, NoHo Hank from Barry. As Bill and Ted deal with each of these loveable villains, their daughters travel through time assembling the greatest band in history to play their song, picking up, among others, Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and a drum-playing neanderthal, Grom, supposedly the greatest drummer to ever have lived.
It’s that kind of movie. It’s silly but never stupid, absurd but never ridiculous. It’s many shades of comfort and joy and it’s coming out in cinemas, so, if you’ve just had your nerves shredded by Tenet, have them healed by Bill and Ted and their excellent music.