Bill and Ted began as parodies of “Chosen Ones” who achieve the impossible. Face the Music made their utopia almost plausible by sharing their stage.
The biggest punchline of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is spoiled by George Carlin as Rufus at the start of the film. The premise that a pair of well-meaning but academically underachieving metalheads could make music that would ultimately give birth to an absurdly unified and pristine future utopia is not only an impossible resolution but intentionally so. To quote The Simpsons meme, “That’s the joke,” and it’s gilded when fans hear them play at the end of the film, as even Rufus grimaces and says, “They do get better.”
The sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, addresses the duo’s lack of musical skills, as they cram 16 months of intense guitar training into a time-travel break that’s virtually instantaneous for the audience and viewers of the concert that introduces them to the world. But despite the decently rocking song and amusing montage that follow, the sequel still doesn’t explain exactly how the duo’s music brings humanity into cosmic harmony because, again, that’s the joke. This tasks Bill & Ted Face the Music with providing a literally impossible resolution to its foundational premise.
Bill & Ted’s Most Enduring Legacy Is Not as ‘Chosen Ones’
By the time the real-life Bill and Ted reunited for Face the Music, Keanu Reeves had starred in The Matrix trilogy, which played into the “Chosen One” tropes the Bill & Ted films had parodied by depicting its sympathetic himbo protagonists as the saviors of humanity. So, just as director Peter Hyams deciphered Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey by having his main character ask all the same questions that fans did about that film in his sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, so too did Bill & Ted co-creators, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. In fact, they show their duo (and those dudes’ daughters) asking how one song could accomplish so much.
Face the Music opens with another montage, showing how Bill and Ted have repeatedly failed in the wake of their Bogus Journey because they mistakenly believe their song must perform the transformation by itself. Except those failures prove vital to their eventual success because by striving to craft the perfect song, the previously inattentive learners who’d caused their high school history teacher so much consternation have become avid students of all forms of music. And by being raised in such a musically rich environment, Bill and Ted’s adult daughters, Billie and Theodora, have grown up to become musical prodigies, even though they don’t sing or play instruments themselves. Billie and Thea’s musical knowledge — plus a time machine supplied by Rufus’ daughter — enables the younger Preston and Logan duo to recruit a backing band of Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a prehistoric drummer named Grom and Ling Lun (ancient China’s mythic founder of music).
Billie and Thea turned out the way they did because Bill and Ted were determined not to make the same mistakes as their fathers, who sought to stifle their musical interests rather than support their pursuits. And it’s because Bill and Ted are such good dads they realize the “Preston/Logan” on the USB drive of the song they obtained from their elderly selves refers to their daughters. As much as Rufus’ utopian future society has mythologized Bill and Ted as its “Chosen Ones,” the older Preston and Logan duo realize they’re meant to perform the song produced by Billie and Thea. Bill and Ted might remain eternal teenagers at heart. But as nurturing parents, they’ve developed the maturity and humility to gladly cede their legacy to the daughters who have surpassed them.
Time Hijinks Help Bill & Ted’s Concert Bring Humanity Into Harmony
And yet, as Bill and Ted pointed out, no matter how great the tune or its performers are, simply listening to the same song won’t unite the whole world — but getting them to play along might. That is when what Doctor Who’s Tenth Doctor would call “timey-wimey” dynamics come into play. All of time and space is conveniently converging into a singularity at the exact moment and location of their concert — at 7:17 p.m. on (unspecified date) in 2020, at Milepost 46 on Interstate 210, between Los Angeles and Pasadena — so they know they’ll have the audience on hand to hear their song. And by hitting the “infinite” button on Rufus’ old time-traveling phone booth, Bill and Ted and their wives are able to deliver musical instruments to all of humanity throughout history simultaneously, along with instructions on what to play (C major, 113 beats per minute). The “Chosen One” trope of Excellent Adventure and Bogus Journey is further diffused by enlisting the entire human race into the band.
That broader spirit of harmony is presaged more personally by Billie and Thea assisting in the reconciliation between their dads and their former bandmate, the Grim Reaper. Bill and Ted’s return trip to Hell also forces Ted’s own perpetually disapproving father to finally accept that all his son’s wild claims of adventures throughout history and the afterlife actually happened and that his impossible aspirations of uniting the world could come true at last. Seeing Ted rock out and trade high-fives with the same police chief father who had threatened to exile him to the Oates Military Academy in Alaska underscores the degree to which everyone involved is moved by this reality-altering experience. And as the planets align, per Rufus’ predictions, Billie and Thea explain, “It wasn’t so much the song that made the difference. It was everyone playing it together. And it worked.”