‘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

‘The Grudge’ Just Won’t End, and That’s Fitfully Fascinating

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CREDIT: Allen Fraser/Sony/Screen Gems

Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Demián Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Jacki Weaver, Frankie Faison, William Sadler

Director: Nicolas Pesce

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: R for Dismemberment, Fire, Drowning, Stabbing, and Gunshot Wounds

Release Date: January 3, 2020

In the spirit of experimentation, I have decided that my first movie review of 2020 will be in the form of an acrostic. The letters I will be using will be those in the title (not including the “the”), that title being The Grudge, the remake of a remake (or perhaps the latest remake of the first version) about the ghostly curse that lingers in a house where an anger-filled murder has occurred. This time, it takes the form of a multi-murder mystery in which those investigating the deaths at 44 Reyburn Drive run the risk of becoming infected by the grudge themselves.

Great cast! I mean, just look at that list. That’s at least half a dozen folks that could carry a horror movie (or any movie) on their own, and here they are together. Do they elevate the material that’s on the page? Yes, and it could use some elevating.

Repeating the formula is the name of the game here, but not the Grudge formula (or not just the Grudge formula). If you’re hankering for a return to J-horror remake glory, chances are you’ve got The Ring on your mind, and so does, it would seem, The Grudge 2020, as Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) is most concerned about protecting her son from the effects of the curse that she is experiencing.

Upside-down is how you’ll be looking during one particularly grisly moment involving Lin Shaye. It’s also how you’ll be feeling when things turn metaphysical and conversations discuss how supernatural curses go hand-in-hand with time distortion.

Digits (i.e., fingers) get hacked off. In general, writer/director Nicolas Pesce is not shy about bodies becoming pummeled, ripped apart, and decayed. It’s this movie’s most effectively visceral technique.

Generosity, and a fair bit at that, is probably required to give this umpteenth entry in a long-running, occasionally ponderous franchise a chance. An effective atmosphere is met, and frankly, that is a must that must be met in this sort of challenge.

Ending… it looked like it was going to be conclusive, which wouldn’t have been a good fit for the endless hopelessness inherent in this premise. But then there’s a fakeout, and instead of a punch in the gut, you leave with more of a whoosh.

The Grudge is Recommended If You Like: Diving into the infinite reboot loop while allowing some room for hope

Grade: 2.75 out of 5 Hands Popping Out of Hair