You remember at the start of The Player where the big gag was that someone was pitching The Graduate 2 twenty five years after the original? This idea is a common occurrence now though, belated sequels and reboots have become a huge thing. Sure we had The Two Jakes in 1990, coming sixteen years after Chinatown and The Colour of Money four years before that but twenty three years after The Hustler which is the film it followed, but these were anomalies. Now it is totally the norm with (just off the top of my head) Mad Max, Jurassic Park, Tron, Rambo, Rocky, Bad Boys, Top Gun, Blade Runner, Terminator, Mary Poppins, The Shining, Ghostbusters and of course Star Wars all picking up again after decades. No one really expected Bill & Ted to join this list though did they?
Seriously Bill & Ted was all about two teen dreamers with no inclination or idea of how to advance their futures who discover that the fate of the world depends on them doing just that. Their youth was completely key to the story. I’d have thought we’d have been as likely to get a real time continuation of The Breakfast Club.
Here we are though, catching up with these guys in their mid fifties. It’s a little odd.
I get that writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon have never given up hope of returning to their best loved characters, even though Solomon has had an impressive enough career with the first Men in Black and the Now You See Me films also on his CV. Similarly I can see why Reeves and Winter might have relished the chance to revisit the place they started and play The Wyld Stallyns again. You might think this is a step backwards for Reeves but actually, The Matrix notwithstanding, despite enjoying a varied career he only really found his true calling six years ago playing John Wick. Prior to that the Bill & Ted films were arguably the strongest entries in his filmography being as they were two successful comedy films where his limited acting range was part of the gag not something to be mocked.
What I don’t really understand is why we the audience would want to see this film. I guess I need look no further than myself; my love of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey brought me back and with all of those previously mentioned films perhaps we just don’t question it anymore.
Interestingly, they way they have managed to have the focus on their ageing heroes without losing the spirit of the story is by using the same trick as Blade Runner 2049 and last Star Wars trilogy. Knowing they really need to reboot the thing with some younger characters they have just thrown these in against the established cast. They couldn’t recast Star Trek style (they tried this on TV in ‘92 and it didn’t work) so as well as having our eponymous heroes off on one mission, the movie also features Samara Weaving and Bridget Lundy-Paine as their twenty something daughters, going off on another. This film is both Bill & Ted’s Senescent Adventure and Billie & Thea’s Juvenescent Journey all tied up together. I have to say though, while it is good to see men close to my age still playing this game, my fears have been realised; it isn’t really their game any more. I think I enjoyed the second element of the movie with the girls more.
Yeah yeah, I’m ageist and traitor to my contemporaries but let’s look at something that I think illustrates this point.
This is Reeves and Winter in publicity shots for each of the first films. Check out the energy but more importantly check out the outfits.
Seriously Keanu Reeves’ t-shirt, shorts, jacket round the hips and waistcoat combo from Excellent Adventure is a thing of true wonder. That didn’t really work even in 1989 but somehow he pulls it off. Then in Bogus Journey they are both rocking the primary colours in a way no one else could and it’s magnificent. Reeves is wearing three clashing shades of the red spectrum and he still looks cool, for goodness sake.
Now let’s go to exhibit B.
Winter is in the dad version of his previous outfits which is unsettling enough but what is going on with Reeves’ pink shirt? It is so dull and it genuinely bothered me the whole way through the film. There are other outfits worn by these guys in the movie but these are their signature looks and they are terrible.
Check this out though.
I don’t even know how to describe what Bridget Lundy-Paine (on the left) has got on but it is a combination of garments no one has ever chosen before and it is strange yet amazing. Basically the kids rock and their parents don’t. Bill and Ted have grown out of their mojo.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the film, nostalgia carried me through, there were some amusing moments and Reeves and Winter play it well, but it didn’t really justify its existence. To be fair the thing I have just criticised the film for is part of the plot and allows it to take a nice feminist turn at the end in how it deals with these men who are destined to save the world, but more time with the ladies would have been better.
There are other nice little touches in various places. I like how it celebrates multicultural contributions to music and making Keanu Reeves do his famously ropey English accent again has to be deliberately and knowingly meta. The bigger budget serves the fantasy elements well too. In the end though, the music we are facing is an old tune that misses a few notes.
Roll on the new grown up Goonies film, or maybe even Look Whose Talking: Mikey’s Midlife Crisis.