I have, I admit, surprising amounts of feelings about Bill and Ted Face the Music, the just-released third installment in the movie serial that seemed abandoned after 1991’s Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (AKA Bill and Ted Go to Hell, which was always the better title, but I get why the studio wanted them to change it).
It’s not just that I’m overwhelmed with happy nostalgia to see Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves back as these characters 29 years after they last played them, although that’s obviously a significant factor; I loved the first two movies, even though I remember them being little more than cult favorites in the U.K. at the time — the first one, I remember, was something I knew about in advance purely because it was advertised on the back of DC’s comic books for a couple months in the summer of 1989. I even adored the Marvel comic book series that spun out of Bogus Journey, which I’m pretty sure I discovered around the same time as I found Milk and Cheese, cementing my longterm love of Evan Dorkin’s work. To see a new Bill and Ted movie now, and for it not to be terrible — or, for that matter, just an exercise in nostalgia and nothing else — feels like a victory in and of itself.
But my feelings come from, really, the fact that Face the Music feels like a movie aimed at people my age, and a movie about getting over yourself — about allowing yourself to escape the story that you’ve told yourself about yourself since you were younger, and accepting who you actually have become, instead. It’s couched in dumb jokes and sci-fi conceits, sure, but from the very title of the movie — “Face the Music,” I mean, come on — to the fact that a solution to the movie’s problems only comes when Bill and Ted stop telling everyone, including themselves, “I can fix this!” and instead admit that they can’t, it’s a surprisingly touching movie about failing to live up to your potential and being okay with that.
Indeed, it’s a movie about realizing that failing to live up to your potential in one thing doesn’t mean that you haven’t done great things elsewhere in your life that are more worthy of celebration. (Bill and Ted raised Billie and Thea, after all, and they’re the ones who solved everything.)
Maybe I’m projecting, and none of this is actually in there; maybe these are all things that I’m reading into a silly movie that just wanted to get William Sadler back into Death make-up and came up with a convoluted way to make that happen. I don’t think I am, though. For all that Bill and Ted Face the Music is a movie about kindness and pure-heartedness and the need for people to come together as one — and it is all those things, too — it feels, more than anything, a movie for middle aged guys to accept that they’re middle aged and that that’s actually kind of a good thing, really.
As a 45-year-old man, why wouldn’t I have feelings about that?