By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Dude, I’m gonna cut right to the chase. You will like this movie if you are:
- A true fan of Keanu Reeves. I don’t mean “John Wick” Keanu. I mean “Point Break” Keanu. I’m talking “Dangerous Liaisons” Keanu.
- A person who was a 7-year-old boy or had the animal spirit of a 7-year-old boy in 1992.
- A fan of both “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”—this one is a gimme, duh, but I’m more trying to slyly tell you that this third part occupies a good space in the trilogy and you don’t have to be scared it won’t live up to your memories.
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” was filmed before COVID-19 and has been released on streaming services as well as in theaters. Beyond Alex Winter and Reeves reprising their roles as Bill and Ted, the film also features the talents of Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, and Jillian Bell.
Yes, this latest installment features a lot of women and also Kid Cudi playing a version of himself, being awesome.
There’s this meta-awareness of the passage of time in this update of “Bill & Ted,” a comedy franchise that revolves around the idea of time travel.
Back in 1989 with the first film, the country was coming out of eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The 1980s were a decade marked by social and political conservatism, American consumerism and materialism—and also the backlash and resistance against yuppie culture. That was also the decade that saw the rise of MTV, Madonna, Public Enemy, and Guns N’ Roses.
In the first film, Bill and Ted were prophesied to be these two world saviors who would unite folks across time and space with their music—if only they could finish writing a history paper and pass history class so that Ted’s authoritarian jerk-dad doesn’t send him off to military school to beat toxic masculinity into him. In the first film, they successfully pass history because they travel through time in a magic phone booth and meet historical figures that they kidnap for their history presentation, which was a rousing success. Ted never gets shipped off to military school and the two friends end the movie comfortable in the belief that they will bring about world peace with their music.
And 2020 feels very far removed from 1989. It doesn’t fly as well these days to have a movie that features two white-presenting saviors and no woman of import at all. The absence of people of color not only is conspicuous, but is also sometimes uncomfortable.
So 2020’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music” opens up with two pathetic-looking middle-aged white dudes (Reeves is Hapa, but in the universe of this film, he is white) playing their song at a wedding. They have not amounted to the greatness that was prophesied for them. They are both in marriage counseling with their wives because of certain failures in meeting the expectations of adulthood. And they use the phone booth time machine to search through different iterations of themselves, to figure out where it all went wrong and how to right the course of the ship.
This latest “Bill & Ted” film feels like light meta-commentary on white hetero cis maleness. With humor and nostalgia, it kinda tackles what it looks like when white boys at the center of their universe grow into white men who are pretty inconsequential to their world.
And the effect in this movie is pretty nice. The result is that there’s a whole lot more for women to do in the movie—Bill and Ted’s kids are two daughters who are basically the spitting images of their dads, played by Weaving and Lundy-Paine. The young women’s taste in music and their perspectives, as portrayed in the movie, is so much more broad and far-reaching than their fathers. They go on their own adventures, and rather than just meeting up with mostly white male historical figures, as Bill and Ted did in previous films, their daughters go through time to meet Jimi Hendrix and Louis Armstrong, Mozart, and also—really surprisingly, Ling Lun, legendary flutist and founder of music from ancient Chinese history.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how Keanu Reeves is just legit a treasure and we need to protect him at all costs. While he and I both know he’s not the most gifted of actors, there’s something extra and special about him and the characters that he plays. He imbues them with this sensitivity or vulnerability that is intriguing and hard to pin down. In this movie, I love that he just loves his best friend —in a pure and positive way. That just feels nice!
“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is out right now on streaming services and in theaters.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.