Going to the cinema

There’s no streaming platform for BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC so if we wanted to see it, which we did, we were going to have to suit up and brave the Vue Ocean terminal, which we did. We figured sitting in the back row would make it less likely that other patrons would laugh droplets into us. So, yesterday afternoon, we did it.

I’d taught my first classes of the academic year that week. Edinburgh University is being sensible, which means everything essential’s delivered online. In principle non-essential things can be delivered in person, but current lockdown rules prevent gatherings from more than two households, and one-on-one tutorials don’t seem wise. If I caught the bug from the first tutee, I could infect the second, third, fourth, etc. There are twenty-one of them. A good day’s work.

Still, it seemed like a week of new beginnings. And the word “joyous” had been used to describe B&TFTM. And it is — it’s the kind of film that would most benefit from a big audience, but alas the big audience might not benefit, in the long term, so we saw it in a sparsely-spread, socially distanced group, who seemed to have as fun a time as us.

I recall Joss Ackland (De Nomolos) disparaging BILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY, saying it glorified stupidity. I feel this was unfair. Bill and Ted’s disadvantage in their adventures is that they’re not terribly bright, though they have a bit of imagination. But what the films glorify is their niceness. And, though the years have thrown a lot of troubles their way, they are, if anything, even nicer. True, their future selves in this movie go through some changes and rather let the side down, but we know they’ll come through in the end. (There’s a multiverse thing thrown in to explain away certain inconsistencies… never mind, I’m sure it makes more sense than TENET.)

The only note of discomfort in earlier B&T entries was the gag that, when the boys embrace in an emotional moment, they then step back, alarmed by their own expression of intimacy, and say “Fag” at each other in a somewhat flat mechanical way. They don’t really mean it, but in their subculture it has to be said. I think it was always sort of a joke ABOUT homophobia, and it was an honest one about the language and culture of American male metalhead youth, but it stuck out as the only unpleasant note, and there’s no way they were going to do it in 2020. And that, too, is an honest reflection of how at least much of the culture has changed.

I do think it’s harder for dumb people to be nice, since they don’t know or understand the rules that should apply, so maybe Bill & Ted deserve all the more respect for managing it. And people who are smart and nasty like De Nomolos deserve all the more contempt.

And actually nobody’s all bad in this film. A robot killer from the future turns out to be one of the film’s most endearing new creations. The people who send him mean well, but are falling into the old “ends-justify-the-means” trap.

I wondered if the central premise — everything’s falling apart — spacetime itself disintegrating — is a metaphor for where the world is currently at. Of course there was no pandemic in progress when this film was conceived, but there was already a lot going on. The utopian ideal promulgated is that we could all come together if we concentrated on what we have in common rather than what divides us. Which I believe is true, the problems come when, having come together, we try to accomplish anything.

If I had a suggestion for how to improve the film, I would let Alex Winter direct it, because he’s a brilliant visual stylist and he’s already on the payroll anyway and Dean Parisot, who made the superb GALAXY QUEST and has great taste in performers and performance, isn’t. But he DOES have great taste in performers and performances. Among the people who are terrific in this, asides from all the returning series favourites, are Bill & Ted’s daughters, Thea & Billie (particularly Samara Weaving, one of those damned Australians who can do anything), Kristen Schaal, Anthony Carrigan, and Dave Grohl who is being particularly excellent this year.

BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC stars John Wick; John Polidori; Gertha Teeth; Nix; Julia Clarke; Heywood; Pencil Machine Operator; Professor Stromwell; Chlorinda; Satan; Lt Obersturmfuhrer Schmidt; DW Griffith; Cardinal Glick; and You pigs…say your prayers.

3 Responses to “Going to the cinema”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    I’ve always assumed Bill and Ted were a couple “on the down low.”
    Their ineffable sweetness is the key to the series success.

  2. They’re certainly inseparable. There’s a subplot about their need to be able to talk to their wives as individuals rather than as two couples, but it’s sort of just a matter of words. Funny, though!

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