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Bill & Ted Face the Music

Year: 2020
Production Co: Hammerstone Studios
Director: Dean Parisot
Writer: Ed Solomon
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Kristen Schaal, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Dave Grohl, George Carlin

I was afraid this movie would remind me of Angelyne, a woman now in her 70s who still has long blonde wigs full of pink streaks, ultratight miniskirts and silicon boobs heaving out of outfits women 30 years younger than her would look silly in – something way past its prime still trying to be cute.

The roles of Bill and Ted, two eternal manchildren who are as lovable, effusive and enthusiastic as they are clueless about the world might have suited two kids barely into their 20s, as Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves were at the time of the first two films.

But as soon as I saw that video of them announcing the movie at the Hollywood Bowl I was skeptical. Alex Winter looked far too old to pull that mugging off and Keanu Reeves (never a paean of acting talent to begin with) doesn't have the kind of energy his early incantations of Ted needed. It looked like it was going to be old, tired and stupid.

Unfortunately, my fears were mostly realised. Whether it was the studio bankrolling it, the writer or the director, it adheres to the same tired passing-the-torch archetype as every Hollywood movie where the stars are over 50.

This time, Bill and Ted have daughters with their English princess wives in the shape of Samara Weaving as Bill's daughter Thea and Brigette Lundy Paine as Ted's daughter Billie, stoner-esque clones of their idiot fathers. As a premise it's funny for about five minutes.

The second problem is the uninspired story, an all-new race against time where Bill and Ted have to write the song that's going to unite the world, end poverty, etc we know from the first movie.

But the biggest Achilles heel is Winter and Reeves themselves, seeming as tired and disinterested as I feared, knock-off versions of themselves without any of the verve to pull it off. How this has over 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes I have no idea, but the only thing I can attribute it to is the same reason Scorsese finally won an Oscar for The Departed – everybody must have been so swept up in the nostalgia and love of the original movies they gave a far lesser effort a free pass.

Bill and Ted are still best friends, but with families to support and marriages under strain, they feel moribund in their lives, aware Wyld Stallyns still hasn't saved the world as prophecised.

Worse still, time is collapsing, with figures and events from across history suddenly pinging in and out of existence across San Dimas. Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of their original future handler Rufus, comes back to their time to warn them of the impending apocalypse and implores them to write the song that's destined to save the world.

They travel to the future where the glittery leaders of society charge them with their mission and the looming deadline, but when they realise it'll be easier to visit their future selves and steal the song rather than go to the trouble of writing it, they take the phone booth we know from the other movies and crisscross time to do so.

From there it's a greatest hits compilation of Bill and Ted riffs. They assemble a collection of iconic musicians from across history to help them perform the song, face and fight with various versions of their future selves and even – courtesy of the robot sent back in time to kill them in case they fail – end up back in hell where they have to convince Death (William Sadler) to rejoin the band after their epic falling out decades before.

There are plenty of other callbacks and easter eggs. One of the few amusing ones is Missy, the hot classmate of the boys who married to Ted's father before divorcing him to marry Bill's dad. Here she's left him too and married Deacon, Ted's little brother.

But none of the roll call of motifs from the other movies are enough to save the feeling that someone is flogging a dead horse. It was never going to be the kind of movie where the plot would sell itself, but if Reeves and Winter had some of the same gormless charm, it at least might have been a bit more fun.

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