It’s been nearly 30 years since Bill and Ted of San Dimas, Calif., went to hell, played Twister with Death, and supposedly saved the world with a sorta-crappy song that was actually performed by Kiss.
Now, after many failed attempts, we’ve finally gotten a third Bill and Ted film, in which the middle-aged dudes grappling are with parenthood, marital troubles and a killer robot.
Was it worth the wait? Yeah, sure.
If that doesn’t seem like a resounding endorsement, that’s because it isn’t. This film sometimes feels flat, with Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) at the helm, and the writers of the first two films returning for a third go. Alex Winter is back as Bill, and he basically steals the film from Keanu Reeves as Ted, who doesn’t seem to be feeling the joy this time out.
I thought they’d saved the world with “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” but apparently that’s not the case. The film begins with Bill and Ted performing at a wedding; their career is a mess after Death (William Sadler) quit Wyld Stallyns, and their many albums failed to chart.
Enter Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (played previously by the late George Carlin), who shows up in a time-traveling pod. Reality as we know it is collapsing upon itself, and if Bill and Ted don’t come up with a universe-saving song, everything is going to go away. Bill and Ted, shortly after leaving marriage counseling, get back in the time-traveling phone booth and visit themselves in the future in an attempt to steal what could be the already-written universe-saving song.
This leads to some relatively funny stuff, with future Bill and Ted being their own worst enemies. (They are both assholes, and Ted drinks too much.) The best sequence involves the two future dudes all jacked and tattooed in prison. In an attempt to help their dads, daughters Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) travel through time as well, assembling a band consisting of Louis Armstrong, Mozart and Hendrix.
Death shows up in the second half—and that’s when the film really kicks into gear, because Sadler hasn’t lost a step with his worrisome Reaper. Anthony Carrigan, so great in HBO’s Barry, chips in as Dennis Caleb McCoy, the killer robot. This character seems to be going nowhere at first—but then Carrigan puts a weird spin on Dennis and makes him memorable.
Parisot seems a little lost at times with his direction. This seems like it should be a happier film, but it is often listless, with sloppy editing. Thankfully, Winter is totally on point as Bill, while Reeves is mostly OK, although he sometimes he loses that affable, happy Ted charm and is a bit of a bummer at times. “Future Ted,” who is a complete jerk, features Reeves at the top of his game.