“Don't try to understand it, feel it,” says a sympathetic scientist early on in Christopher Nolan’s brain-scrambling Tenet.
Weirdly, that advice holds for those brave souls returning to the cinemas for this less high-minded adventure.
This time the vibe is laid-back as two middle-aged idiots travel through the multiverse to prevent the space/time continuum unravelling.
Thankfully, with this one we’re never afraid of losing the plot. Despite the time hops, it will all be reassuringly familiar to those with the fuzziest of memories of their heyday.
As in 1989’s Excellent Adventure and 1991’s Bogus Journey, air guitars are strummed, old-fashioned phoneboxes tumble through time and characters are killed and sent to Hell.
By the time we are reunited with a hopscotching Death (William Sadler) the nostalgia has been dialled right up to 11.
When we catch up with little Bill (Alex Winter) and big Ted (Keanu Reeves) it seems time hasn’t been kind to the rockers.
Their group Wyld Stallyns are now playing wedding receptions and Mexican restaurants, where the big draw is a $2 taco deal rather than their rock.
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They’re still married to the medieval princesses (Jayma Mays and Erinn Hayes), but only just. Their first stop is to a marriage counsellor, which the bros have turned into a misjudged double date.
But at least their daughters love them. Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Billie (Samara Weaving) are horrified when their dads seem to be finally losing the faith.
“We’ve spent our entire lives trying to unite the world. And I’m tired, dude,” Ted confesses.
That’s the cue for time-traveller Kelly (Kristen Schall) to fall out of the sky in a futuristic egg.
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She brings greetings and a dire warning – unless they can write a seminal song in the next 77 minutes (in other words, before the end of the film), “time and space will collapse”.
The pair hit on a scheme that combines world-saving with labour-saving.
They decide to send themselves forward in time to steal the song from their future selves who must have already written it.
As the pair tangle with fat and drunk Bill and Ted, muscle-bound jailbirds Bill and Ted and wise and elderly Bill and Ted, their daughters hit on a different plan.
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They will head into the past to recruit the ultimate super-group, beginning with Jimi Hendrix and ending with the hairy cavewoman who discovered percussion.
At this point, I wasn’t entirely sure whether this massive nostalgia trip was making me feel young or painfully old.
There was definitely a charm in its refusal to move with the times. Generation X slackers uniting the world through viral videos would have been far from excellent.
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But where were the jokes? Did all the double acts of my generation coast along on funny faces and goofy catchphrases?
Thankfully, perhaps ironically, the film comes back to life with the arrival of Death, who we learn quit The Wyld Stallyns to release an album of bass solos.
Sadler, who scarily doesn’t seem to have aged a day, has both the timing and one-liners to carry us to the finale, which is reassuring silly but also strangely touching in its old-fashioned optimism.
“Be excellent to each other. Party on.”
Perhaps us Generation Xers do still have something to say.
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