Whoa! Orion Pictures has dropped the first trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music, the long-awaited sequel to the popular franchise that launched in 1989. There’s a reason the studio chose this particular day: June 9, or 6/9, is the number Bill and Ted were thinking of when they met themselves in front of the Circle K, just over 30 years ago.
(Spoilers for first two Bill & Ted films below.)
In the original 1989 film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are high school students in danger of flunking history. If that happens, Ted’s father will ship him off to a military academy, thus breaking up their band, Wyld Stallyns. But the band is destined to usher in a future utopia, which is now threatened. With the help of a time machine in the form of a phone booth (provided by a messenger from the year 2688), the pair travels through history, meeting Socrates, Billy the Kid, Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Abraham Lincoln, among others.
The movie was a surprise hit, grossing $40.5 million against its modest $6.5 million budget. So naturally it spawned a sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991), in which the boys must defeat their evil robot doubles from the future to preserve the utopian society based on their ideals. Among the highlights: Bill and Ted must play a game against Death in order to free their souls and return to Earth to win the Battle of the Bands. It’s a clear nod to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) where a man plays a game of chess in hopes of defeating Death. Bill and Ted challenge the Grim Reaper to Battleship, Clue, and Twister, easily winning every time.
Reeves first mentioned a possible sequel in 2010, and the script went through multiple rewrites over the next several years as the Bill & Ted franchise creators Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (who is incidentally the son of I Am Legend scribe Richard Matheson) struggled to get the tone just right. “This is not, ‘Hey, let’s cash in on the Bill & Ted thing for money,” Solomon told Digital Spy in January 2018. “This is the opposite. This is, ‘We love these characters, they’ve been with us for our whole lives—Chris and me, and Alex and Keanu—and we wanted to visit them again as middle-aged men. We thought it would be really fun and funny and sweet.”
The sequel was first announced via Twitter in March 2019 in a quintessentially Bill and Ted way: with stars Winter and Reeves standing in front of the bandshell at the Hollywood Bowl (“where we will never play”) and thanking fans for their support. And they really did get the band back together, so to speak. Not only have Matheson and Solomon penned the script, but William Sadler is returning as the Grim Reaper, Hal Landon Jr. returns as Ted’s dad, and Amy Stoch reprises her role as Bill (and later Ted’s) sexy step-mother, Missy. The late George Carlin—who played the duo’s historical guide from the future, Rufus—will appear via repurposed archival footage. Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest is the director.
So what’s Face the Music all about? “Basically, they’re supposed to write a song to save the world, and they haven’t done that,” Reeves said in a January 2017 interview. “The pressure of having to save the world, their marriages are falling apart, their kids are kind of mad at them, and then someone comes from the future and tells them if they don’t write the song it’s just not the world, it’s the universe. So they have to save the universe because time is breaking apart.”
Per the official premise:
The stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling exploits of William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. and Theodore “Ted” Logan. Yet to fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.
The teaser opens with a glimpse of Wyld Stallyns playing their music in a massive arena before the entire world. But as The Great Leader (Holland Taylor) from the future utopia reminds them when she summons them for a full accounting, “One month ago, you played in Barstow, California, for 40 people, most of whom were there for two-dollar taco night.” The utopian residents are not impressed with the progress the duo has made on writing the song that will unite the world and “save reality as we know it.”
Welcome to Bill and Ted’s mid-life crisis. With all that pressure, how could a couple of slackers from San Dimas, California, write such a critically important song? Ted has the brilliant idea of traveling to the future, when the song already exists, and stealing it from themselves. As Bill says, “How is it stealing if we’re stealing it from ourselves, dude?” We get a brief glimpse of the Grim Reaper and see Bill and Ted visit a prison, where the inmates perform a song for them. Asked what they think of it, Ted replies, “It’s a little dark, but it’s cool.”
Bill & Ted Face the Music is currently slated to hit theaters on August 21, 2020. Given the horrific events of the last two weeks, their message is especially needed: “Be excellent to each other.”
Listing image by Orion Pictures