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Review: 'Bill & Ted Face the Music' is a bummer, dudes

The reunion of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter's doofus duo is better in concept than execution

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The third go-round with Bill and Ted is more bogus than excellent. 

"Bill & Ted Face the Music," which arrives 31 years after "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" and 29 years after its follow-up, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," struggles to find a reason to exist past the bringing together of its two stars. It may have worked better as a "Funny or Die" short or a table read for charity. As it is, "Face the Music" is like bumping into an old classmate at the grocery store: fun at first, but soon you're looking for ways to politely exit the conversation and head for the door. 

Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves in "Bill & Ted Face the Music."

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are the iconic duo, a pair of rock and roll loving dolts with not much between their ears other than memorized guitar chords and a firm adoration for each other.  

As high school boneheads whose band Wyld Stallyns helped create a future Utopian society, Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) had a charming cluelessness about them. As dudes still operating at a 9th grade level but now in their mid-50s, it's tough to believe they've gotten by all this time simply uttering California surfer-isms.

"Face the Music" attempts to give our fair duo a real world dilemma to struggle with — the malaise of their wives, princess babes (played by Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes) they picked up on their journey through time — and sends them off to see a couples therapist (Jillian Bell). There, they're unable to express their love for their wives outside of the confines of their mutual bromance. (Bill and Ted's soulmates may just be Romy and Michelle; that would be a crossover worth exploring.) 

Keanu Reeves, William Sadler and Alex Winter in "Bill & Ted Face the Music."

The future mercifully comes calling in the form of Kelly (Kristen Schaal), daughter of George Carlin's time traveler guide Rufus. She whisks Bill and Ted to the year 2720 where they're informed they need to come up with a killer song to unite the world and save reality, and they have under 90 minutes to do it. (Their ticking clock more or less mirrors the runtime of the movie.) 

Meanwhile, Bill and Ted's daughters Theodora (Samara Weaving) and Wilhelmina (Brigette Lundy-Paine) travel through time to wrangle their fathers a supergroup consisting of Jimi Hendrix (DazMann Still), Louis Armstrong (Jeremiah Craft) and other excellent musicians through history.

Time overlaps and folds in on itself as Bill and Ted visit various versions of themselves to try to obtain the mythical song they're tasked with writing; Reeves and Winter seem happier (and more comfortable) playing the alternate versions of their characters — including themselves as pumped-up prison inmates — than they do the real thing. All the while they're chased by a melancholic, self-doubting robot named Dennis (Anthony Carrigan), a bright spot in a film that could use it. 

"Face the Music" has a good message about the healing power of music and the comforting simplicity of friendship, and comes at a time when the world could use some good vibes. 

Yet there's something defeating in watching Reeves and Winter dumb down to play these characters; Reeves, in particular, has revealed himself to be a much more soulful and present actor than the Ted-like on-screen presence of his early years suggested. Revisiting this character, as well as reuniting with original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, must have been a fun proposition, and it's easy to see why all parties were interested. But "Bill & Ted Face the Music" reveals a sad universal truth: some things, it turns out, are better left in the past. 

'Bill & Ted Face the Music'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: for some language

Running time: 92 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama