Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? New Bill and Ted!
When we last saw our heroes, in 1991, everything was going great. They had learned how to play, bested their future nemesis, rocked the battle of the bands, and were on their way to Mars. Their future, and the future of the world, looked assured. Thirty years later, we find that things did not work out as we thought. Bill S. Preston esq., and Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan, never wrote that world uniting song, and have faded into obscurity. Now they face middle aged malaise.
But the future, is about to give them one final shot.
After a very long hiatus – has ever been a longer gestating sequel? – the likeable slacker dudes that I remember fondly from my youth are back, in an amiably goofy comedy. The film has a major story continuity issue to dodge: we can’t really have a movie if the guys actually saved the world, but if they haven’t, what was Rufus on about in the earlier films? But it has a neat move to skirt this issue: the introduction of Bill and Ted’s daughters, who have not fallen very far from the tree. This film can then drop the first names and go, ‘A Preston and a Logan will save the world.’ And once you hear that, you know where its going.
But there is a lot of fun to be had on the way. One plot thread repeats the basic structure of ‘Excellent Adventure’, by having the daughters (well played by rising talents Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine) travel through time to gather famous musicians; Louis Armstrong meeting Mozart is a standout, and just as funny as Beethoven playing electronic keyboards in a mall. This group combines for a rousing finale, as you know they will.
Meanwhile, the boys are off on their own track, travelling through the future and meeting different versions of themselves, trying to work out exactly when they fixed everything. This allows the stars, a game Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, to wear a lot of ridiculous costumes and chew the scenery. And the best bits of this are close to inspired; Keanu’s beard as a deadbeat burnout, and then both of them as super buff prison inmates. And Dave Grohl’s cameo doesn’t hurt either (also: he does not seem to have aged, since 1991).
There are a lot of callbacks to the earlier films, for the fully fledged fans. Missy’s ongoing series of marriages, and resulting shift in the family hierarchy, is even funnier now that one of the characters has become his own son. And Death, memorably played by William Sadler in ‘Bogus Journey’, returns like not a day has passed since then; fitting for an immortal being.
Some of the newer additions don’t work as well. The killer robot from the future is really just another variant on the Death character, and George Carlin leaves a big hole. The late comedy legend brought a lot to the character of Rufus, and while I like Kristen Schaal, the film doesn’t give her much to do. The story, while busy and fun, is also not as imaginative as ‘Bogus Journey’; I was hoping for more of that film’s gonzo energy. There is nothing in this one as dementedly inspired as Station (Stayyyyyyyyy shunnnnnnn!), or the evil Bill and Ted robots, and the film feels like it is playing it safe. This is a carefully constructed sequel, and it mostly delivers without hitting the high notes.
But for fans of the earlier films: irresistible. And a funny and mildly diverting couple of hours with an engaging bunch of old friends.