Opening Friday both in theaters and on digital/VOD, “Bill & Ted Face the Music” marches to the same happy rhythms as its two predecessors, 1989’s “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and 1991’s “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.”
Written, like the first two films, by creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, and directed by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”), the new sequel uses that same irresistible formula: ridiculous things happen, which are then met by obliviousness and optimism.
Stupid things are never allowed to get too stupid, because the positivity keeps it all afloat. The result is a respectable number of laughs, but even more smiles.
Twenty-nine years after the previous movie, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are still rocking Wyld Stallyns, and still trying to come up with a song that can unite the world. Their latest failed attempt, performed at a wedding for some recognizable guests, is both brilliant and hysterical.
They receive a visit from Kelly (Kristen Schaal), daughter of original time-traveler Rufus, warning the duo that time is running out. Unless they can finish their song, all of space and time will collapse.
Already, little leaks are happening, such as Babe Ruth suddenly finding himself crossing the Delaware.
So Bill and Ted decide to time-travel into the future and get the finished song from their future selves. This is perhaps not the best plan, especially since it threatens to endanger the duo’s marriages to 15th century princesses Joanna (Jayma Mays) and Elizabeth (Erinn Hayes).
Fortunately Bill and Ted’s daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving), both knowledgeable music nerds, begin their own time-traveling quest to put together the greatest band of all time, to play the song.
Kid Cudi also randomly, helpfully appears.
Other characters are best kept as surprises, although viewers are urged to watch or re-watch at least “Bogus Journey,” if not both earlier films.
The filmmakers bring “Bill & Ted Face the Music” in at just under 90 minutes, and the length feels perfect. It’s frantic, but loosely so, and the colors and music whiz by at a pleasant rate.
The movie has a great deal of fun with the various incarnations of future Bills & Teds, (or “usses,” as the boys call them), slathered in all kinds of creative, bonkers makeup and even accents!
In most time-travel stories, one is not supposed to meet one’s double, for fear of paradoxes or destroying the time-space continuum. One of the movie’s best jokes is that Bill & Ted just don’t seem to understand this or care.
But the movie’s smartest move is making the daughters the heroes. Their in-depth “High Fidelity”-level music knowledge allows them to not only educate the audience on four of the greatest musicians of all time — the other band members are fictional — but also to showcase and celebrate diversity.
All three movies offer the same kind of fleetingly escapist lift, but, whatever tough times the world was going through in 1989 and 1991, times now are arguably far more dire and challenging.
That a movie during this time of murderous disease and blistering hate has the simple wisdom to demonstrate that kindness (“Be excellent to each other!”) and music could be the solution to everything, is such a profound gift it could inspire more than just laughter.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Starring: Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine
Written by: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes