‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ and They Also Face the Weight of Years’ Worth of Anticipation

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Bill & Ted Face the Music (CREDIT: Orion Pictures)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Samara Weaving, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Kristen Schaal, Holland Taylor, Anthony Carrigan, William Sadler, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Kid Cudi, Jillian Bell

Director: Dean Parisot

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for “Some Language,” Apparently

Release Date: August 28, 2020 (Theaters and On Demand)

Bill & Ted Face the Music is about the crushing expectations of destiny. It’s kind of like the Bhagavad Gita in that way. From a gnarlier perspective, it’s also about how time travel doesn’t make any sense, and won’t ever make sense, but that’s okay, because we can still be excellent to each other.

When we first met the Wyld Stallyns during their first excellent time-hopping adventure thirty years ago, we learned that their music would serve as the inspiration for a utopian society several centuries into the future. And now it’s finally time for them to answer that call. If they don’t, the time-space continuum will totally be ripped apart! But in 2020, the biggest live music gig that Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Alex Winter) can get is the wedding of Ted’s younger brother to Bill’s former stepmom. How then can they possibly live up to what Fate has asked of them? How could anybody, really? The premise worked well enough in Excellent Adventure, as it remained theoretical and fantastical, but now disappointment feels inevitable.

But fortunately Face the Music isn’t really about the promise of that world-saving composition. Rather, it is about the shenanigans that lead up to that point, naturally enough. Facing a profound case of writer’s block and a terrifying time limit of only 78 minutes, Bill and Ted figure they might as well visit their future selves and steal the song they will have already written by that point. But that proves to be fruitless no matter how far in the future they go, which begs the question: are they only able to travel into a possible future in which they’re not successful? But how could that be if they’re able to visit the utopian far future when they will have necessarily been successful? And why is there a time limit anyway? If they fail, can’t they just get in the phone booth and go back far enough in the past to start over? The stern visage of Holland Taylor (who plays the future’s Great Leader) assures us otherwise.

There’s a sanded-down quality to Face the Music that can happen when you try to resurrect old beloved characters. Bill and Ted are still plenty charming, but they’re far from as dopey as they were when they were teenagers, even though they still talk in the same surfer bro SoCal cadence. Meanwhile, there’s a trickier sort of alchemy attempted with their daughters (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving), who are basically gender-flipped carbon copies of their dads but they’re also actually geniuses, at least when it comes to music theory, history, and composition.

Face the Music struggles to get a handle on how ridiculous the Wyld Stallyns and their loved ones and collaborators are supposed to be. They do live in a ridiculous reality after all, as they must contend with a depression-prone killer robot (Anthony Carrigan) and a Grim Reaper (William Sadler returning from Bogus Journey) who mopes about not being allowed to deliver 40-minute bass solos. That’s often the trouble with returning to a kooky world. The base level of kookiness is already so high that any new bit of kookiness just feels like chaos. There’s a nice degree of heart here that sometimes shines through in the cacophony, but there’s nothing quite as sublime as “Bob Genghis Khan.”

Bill & Ted Face the Music is Recommended If You Like: Midlife crises, Millennia-spanning supergroups, Just-go-with-it time travel

Grade: 3 out of 5 Princess Wives

This Is a Movie Review: Gloria Bell

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CREDIT: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/A24

The message of Gloria Bell seems to be that you’re never too old to be emotionally immature. The Julianne Moore-portrayed title character might be a divorced grandmother, but she is obviously still deserving of love, and writer-director Sebastián Lelio is clearly more than happy to give her the space to go dancing and spread her wings. And the age-appropriate guys in her orbit know that she is quite a catch. The one that she spends most of her time with, John Turturro’s Arnold, is good company, but he also cannot handle the fact that she had love before him and that it is still a part of her life. Whenever he enters into emotionally challenging territory, he whines and moans and hides. Gloria makes an effort to cut him out of her life when he gets to be way too extra, but she has a chronic case of just-can’t-quit-you-itis. In a way, this movie is about Gloria learning to say yes by saying no, and on that score, it earns the exhilaration of playing Laura Branigan over the end credits.

I give Gloria Bell A Few Eye Rolls, a Thumbs Up, and a Bunch of Hugs.