Saturday, August 29, 2020

Time Keeps on Slippin': BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC

For all the ways Bill and Ted, they of the Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey, are like so many comedy film duos, there’s something singular about them, too. These SoCal teenage friends act like stoners but never toke, surfers but live inland, bros but never get nasty.  For all their dim-bulb energy, they’re surprisingly shrewd when they need to be. For all their slacker energy, they nonetheless can commit themselves to a big goal and see it through to the end. (Maybe that’s what being told you’re destined to save the world will get you.) Sure, they’re dopey, but they’re lovably dopey. After all, it’s not just any pair of best buddies who could’ve traveled through time for a history project or visited heaven and hell while joshing with death and take it in such stride. Their two blissfully silly movies from the late-80s and early-90s were carried along entirely on their goofball sci-fi charms, shaggy low-stakes treatment of space-time fatalism, and, above all else, that unrepeatable fortuitous chemistry from writing two amiably idiosyncratic characters and finding the exact right pair of actors to bring them to life. So even though Bill & Ted Face the Music is easily the least of the now trilogy of comedies starring those guys, it’s still capable of capturing some of their low-key cleverness and aw-shucks capitulation to whatever fate has in store for them. Destiny, after all, is always easier with a best pal along for support. Everyone involved is having a good time.

And so it is that when Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter step back into the roles for the third time, after three decades away, it feels like a pleasant reunion. Sure, they’re older, but you understand they’re basically the same people. Turns out they had some minor success with their rock band Wyld Stallyns, but have stalled out, now playing family weddings and open mic nights. It’s not clear how they have enough to support themselves, let alone their wives and kids. But they still love each other’s company and have each other’s back. Good thing, too, since yet another futuristic visitor (this time Kristen Schaal, playing the daughter of George Carlin’s character from the original) shows up and asks for their help saving the universe by playing one killer song. Only problem: they haven’t written it yet. This leads them hither and yon through some wispily sketched time travel ideas where they encounter various versions of their future selves while attempting to hop to a time in which they’ve already written the song. Director Dean Parisot and returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have a good enough time goofing around with the idea. And the actors are still so winning as the leads that it’s hard to dislike the movie. Yet its best idea is giving the guys grown daughters (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine), who are pitch-perfect young-woman versions of the eponymous duo. They have the same charming chemistry and earnestly dewey dopiness. I almost wish the balance of the film was flipped, giving them more screen time and making their subplot — a jaunt through time to collect the Greatest Musicians, like Louis Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, and Mozart, for their dads’ band — the main attraction. How rare to do a Next Generation of a beloved cult comedy team and have it work so well, even if the film around it is a bit thin.

No comments:

Post a Comment