Many movie openings have fallen on the sword of closed theaters over the past year, and some excellent movies may have unfortunately slipped through cracks, along with much of life as we knew it. By excellent we mean Bill & Ted Face the Music, the follow-up to 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey sequel to 1989’s original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Given its place in pop culture, a third film featuring the lovable but discombobulated hard-rock duo of Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) seemed like a no-brainer. But time has traveled for Bill and Ted, and now 30 years later, Bill & Ted Face the Music finally attempts to answer the nagging question of how these two coconuts became responsible for the creation of a song that unifies future humanity. As an extra cosmic bonus, according to the films’ lore, by saving the future they also save the world, reality and the space-time continuum, all at the same time.

Uniting mankind through music is an idea that has deep roots in ancient history. Apparently it’s no small feat because there aren’t many songs that ring that gong, and it remains the constant pursuit of musicians everywhere. Since time began – whenever that was, whoever controls it – songwriters have been trying to write a song that not only brings people together, but the whole planet, at the same time. The theory here is that everyone everywhere singing the same song at the same time will change the world for the better. Bill & Ted Face the Music takes that challenge head-on. However, the music that Bill & Ted must face first is the truth that they haven’t come up with the song in 30 years and may never, as well as the reality that writing a song with the power to save the world is the musical equivalent of tripping over the Holy Grail in your backyard.

So there’s actually something quite profound afoot in this visually dazzling and delightfully daffy “dude” movie. In the end, Bill & Ted discover that such a song remains elusive – and it may have no words – but that’s OK: “It’s not so much the song that made the difference,” concludes Bill’s daughter Billie at the end, “it was everyone playing it together – and it worked!”

It’s also comforting to know that some things haven’t changed for Bill & Ted in 30 years. The duo’s primary means for temporal transport is the same as ever – an old phonebooth that looks and acts like an antique car you’re not sure is going to be able to start up the next time you get in and try to drive it. That erratic quality translates into a volatile time machine that doesn’t always make textbook landings.

With all the stunning visual effects, the characters are still the film’s main attraction and ultimate source of its charm. Comedy rules throughout, of course, but there’s still something moving about the timeless quest for universal harmony. Bill & Ted offer a splendid idea: Give everyone a musical instrument so they can all play along – or perhaps write that song that might one day unify and, yes, save the world. It’s possible, the movie tells us, but first we all have to face the music, together, as one.

Bill & Ted Face The Music
Bill (Alex Winter) & Ted (Keanu Reeves) are summoned to the future in a capsule for two. Photos copyright © 1989 and 2020 Orion Pictures.