There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong in Bill & Ted Face the Music, but in the grand scheme of things with what happened in 2020, it seems relatively small by comparison. The film IS one we needed in the pandemic-shortened movie season. That's not to say it's not without its flaws. Given the 29 year layoff, the story begins with a summary from Billie Logan (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea Preston (Samara Weaving) who bring audiences up to speed for those who might not be caught up to their fathers', Bill S. Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves). exploits in Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bogus Journey (1991). The film parodies what often happens with musicians throughout the years in the record industry when they change their music, style, and look. There's even a shot of them looking emo in one of their album covers. In this case, they're one-hit wonders who couldn't create the song to unite the world prophesized over 30 years ago.
Fast forward to the present day when they perform at a wedding and find out how much more "connected" their families are. They perform for a wedding showing off their new song to horrified onlookers not ready to accept how "experimental" it is. To see Reeves on the Theremin while Winter performs throat chanting is a visual almost worth enough the price of admission alone. Ted's father Captain Logan (Hal Landon, Jr) as embarrassed as he is at his own situation, is more so at his son and his best friend had not done "anything" in their lives except become fathers themselves. He also feels sorry for how they dragged his granddaughters into a similar path of being overly focused on music than pursuing "regular" careers. Bill and Ted remain aloof as ever until a couples' therapy session finally has them admitting looking down the barrel of burnout now at middle age. Right when Ted admits wanting to give up, a chance opportunity arrives when the adventure really starts.
That being said, the film feels like a "Best of" hits compilation from the duo's previous films. The "grand mission" Bill and Ted are placed on isn't really so much big as it is an exercise in improv. It presents its own challenge when acting against themselves, but the film takes the gimmick and runs it a bit to the ground. It's only a testament to Reeves and Winter's chemistry that never really went away that the scenes work. They're far from perfect, but they're spaced out where it doesn't drag the film considerably. The fresher content comes in the form of Billie and Thea's journey, which you can summarize is a condensed, slightly more awkward version of Excellent Adventure. It feels like it could been its own film, but given the absurd nature of the franchise and the charm of Lundy-Paine and Weaving, it works in its own way. Billie and Thea are reflections, but not copies of Bill and Ted. That's significantly hard to pull off not doing straight impressions of Reeves and Winter. Don't be surprised if Bill & Ted Face the Music achieves success, Orion and MGM decide to succeed the franchise with the two actresses with Reeves and Winter officially passing the torch to more background roles. They won't even have to change the name of the franchise too.
Directed by Dean Parisot and written by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, Face the Music does a most excellent job highlighting the four main actors. The supporting cast seemed a bit wasted for the most part. Given how Kristen Schaal plays Rufus' daughter, Kelly. They could have done a lot more with her. Speaking of Rufus, there's a nod and touching tribute to George Carlin early in the film. As far as other supporting roles, the two that stand out the most is (Anthony Carrigan), who plays a killbot with some screws loose. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin (1997), but far more white paint. They could easily have him be as ruthless as Joss Ackland in Bogus Journey. I seriously hope Carrigan does more comedy.
The other standout is Kid Cudi, who plays a fictionalized version of himself. In a world full of zaniness, chaos, and most barely keeping it together, he's become the most normal, smartest, and articulate character. Everyone's trying to figure out the next move, but he's already forging on like a character out of Star Trek. I never pictured someone equal parts musician and scientist rolled into one and no, Queen's Brian May didn't make a cameo. Speaking of which, there are some notable ones. One is overly blatant in Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and others are a "blink and you might miss it." It was funny seeing Death (William Sadler) shift from this ominous figure to someone a shell of his former shelf complaining about the role he had in the Wyld Stallyns.
Overall, Bill & Ted Face the Music works not only as a comedy, but also a lighthearted family flick that transcends those more specifically geared to stoner culture. Like the franchise's previous outings, it doesn't pretend to be very deep and the clues and allegories can easily be picked up. It's hard not to get behind the film's themes of love and family. Of any must-see films of 2020, this definitely belongs in any top 5. The film also stars Holland Taylor, Jillian Bell, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mayes, Amy Stoch, and Beck Bennett.