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Bill and Ted’s Midlife Crisis   7 comments

The internet has buzzed with rumors regarding a possible third Bill and Ted movie for a few years now (in fact I wrote about how I would do it in a now defunct blog of mine).  The possibility that Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, now in their late 40s, would reunite for a new installment in the saga of this time-traveling pair of slackers became a little more real last year when Winter revealed that a script had been written, and then again just last week when it was announced that Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) has been attached to direct.  But it still remains to be seen if this project will ever come to fruition,  as Reeves stated in an interview with GQWe have a nice story. We’ll see if anyone else wants to make it.

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GQ asked the star, “Is it easy to imagine those characters middle-aged?”  Reeves responded: “I don’t know. It’s one thing to think about it, but to perform it… One of the plot points is that these two people have been crushed by the responsibility of having to write the greatest song ever written and to change the world. And they haven’t done it. So everybody is kind of like: “Where is the song?” The guys have just drifted off into esoterica and lost their rock. And we go on this expedition, go into the future to find out if we wrote the song, and one future “us” refuses to tell us, and another future “us” blames us for their lives because we didn’t write the song, so they’re living this terrible life.  In one version we’re in jail; in another we’re at some kind of highway motel and they hate us.”

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Do me a favor, dear reader, read that again.  And maybe third time.  I think there are a few things that we need to take a look at here.
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If you had a hard time wading through Reeves’ explanation like I did, let me give you a run down as I understand it: the third movie will pick up with where Bill and Ted are today, revealing they have ended up as two washed up rockers who failed to live up to their prophesized greatness.  Feeling pressured by their responsibility to write the greatest song ever written they decide to travel forward in time to find out which of their songs changes the world. In the process they meet two alternate versions of themselves, one set from a future where they never write the song and blame their past incarnations for their failure; and another who won’t tell their past selves if they did.
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This plot line sounds like a major backtrack for the duo, considering Bogus Journey ends with them maturing into the rockers that bring about world/universal peace.  They tell the story through the art of the montage.  This scene still gives me goosebumps, lets watch it together:
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You have got to love Kiss on the soundtrack.
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The last decade has seen its fair share of characters go though the “gritty-retool,” using darker story elements to add (or tack on) meaning and depth to characters that were originally much lighter in tone.  When done well this allows characters to grow with their audience, reconnecting with them at different points in their lives.  The Toy Story series starts as a charming adventure about getting to know new people and accept change, perfect for ten years olds who are just learning to navigate the world.  The third movie is a tale of loss, abandonment and learning how to be strong in the face of it all.  This is something that the original audience, then in their mid twenties, would also be learning to deal with.

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That addition of depth is what this plot intends to do for the story of Bill and Ted.  Adding on the sad realization that twenty years after high school they have failed to live up to the expectations that they had for themselves as well as the expectations that everyone else projected onto them.  The original fan base is getting closer and closer to fifty, prime time to realize that their window do all those things they told themselves they would do before they die is starting to close, just like it is for their old heros Bill and Ted.  Well, as long as we ignore the fact the Grim Reaper is their bassist and cheating death was the plot of the second movie.

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He does a lot of work for Cartoon Network now. I know you were wondering.

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It is pretty easy to assume where the story will go from there.  They will learn that they needed to go on this adventure to reconnect with the part of themselves that they lost touch with so that they can write the perfect song and harmonize the world, because the story was never really about the song but about that “something else” within them.  Because thats how all getting-your-groove-back stories work.  But the first two films are already about Bill and Ted rising to their destined roles as world leaders, so to see them 20 years later as a pair of washed up sad sacks is a major let down.  There is no need for a watch-them-get-their-groove-back adventure if all of their stories so far have been about them getting their groove in the first place.

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Bill and Ted succeeded at changing the world because they believed that  if everyone would just “be excellent to each other” it would flourish into peace and harmony.  Their sentiment is the idealism of youth, unencumbered by cynicism that comes along with growing older and worrying politics and taxes and dead end jobs.  If they end up saving the world at the end of this third film because of a lesson that they could have only come to after having grown older and wiser, even if that lesson ends up being something like “remember the ideals of your youth,” then it kind of undermines and undoes everything they accomplish at the end of the last movie.  And not even just thematically, if we take the montage at the end of Bogus Journey as cannon to the story then the plot of the new movie would have to retcon all of that out, or imply hasn’t happened yet (but we know they did, because a super nerd named AtomicSam checked the dates on the magazine head lines) and that means all of the great things the two young guys accomplished were actually done by their older more grizzled selves.   And if it wasn’t the young Bill and Ted who achieved that greatness, then were all of the adults in their lives who told them they were never going to amount to anything right to doubt them?
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The last thing I want to say is… THEY HAVE A TIME MACHINE! A plot device that allows for endless story telling possibilities.  Why tell the same story over and over again when there are infinite other avenues to explore?  All one of them has to do is dial the wrong number and they could end up anywhere in time and space.  After that all you need is good writing. Well, good writing and good acting…  And good direction.
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So what do you think? Do you want to see Bill and Ted as failed adults getting their groove back, or would you rather a different story?  Tell me below!
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7 responses to “Bill and Ted’s Midlife Crisis

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  1. I’m not a snob about these things and it feels like they can cobble together something worthwhile from a simple straightforward story. The other two movies are about Bill and Ted trying to accomplish a goal that most people think they’re not up to-so it’s not a huge deviation from what’s been done before.

    The question will be (and it’s true of all sequels, remakes, and revivals) will be if they can show us something new and I think that’s where a lot of these long-delayed continuations (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Tron etc. ) really do falter in a big way. The Hollywood principle of “new but not too new.” The second movie didn’t have them traveling through time like the first and as a result it was distinct in a way that really grew on me. I think if they traffic in alternate realities and timelines they might have something unique worthwhile on their hands.

    • I agree with you on that. If they can do something interesting with the alternating timelines then the movie will be worthwhile. Plot is really only a vessel for story telling, good or bad. So, even though I think the plot is trite if the story telling is done then the movie will be worth seeing.

  2. I’m not a snob about these things and it feels like they can cobble together something worthwhile from a simple straightforward story. The other two movies are about Bill and Ted trying to accomplish a goal that most people think they’re not up to-so it’s not a huge deviation from what\’s been done before.

    The question will be (and it’s true of all sequels, remakes, and revivals) will be if they can show us something new and I think that\’s where a lot of these long-delayed continuations (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Tron etc. ) really do falter in a big way. The Hollywood principle of ”new but not too new” The second movie didn\’t have them traveling through time like the first and as a result it was distinct in a way that really grew on me. I think if they traffic in alternate realities and timelines they might have something unique worthwhile on their hands.

  3. I thought it was supposed to be about their kids, who go on their own set of wacky adventures! This sounds far more like Clerks 2, but without the charm and surprising amount of heart that made that movie a success.

    • Clerks 2 is the rare much-later-sequel that I enjoyed. It was a new and very differently told story with two familiar characters. If the Bill and Ted team can figure out that formal I think they could make a movie worth watching.

  4. I love it! Keep up the good over-thinking work, Sam.

  5. Pingback: What Strange Things Are Afoot to Keep Bill & Ted 3 on Hold? | AtomicSam

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