“Fourscore and…seven minutes ago… we, your forefathers, were brought forth upon a most excellent adventure conceived by our new friends, Bill… and Ted.”
Two high school losers, Bill Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves), are on the verge of failing their high school history class when they are met by Rufus (George Carlin), a mysterious man in a trenchcoat, who tells them the future is in jeopardy unless they pass their final report.
After talking with future versions of themselves, the two set off in a time machine disguised as a phone booth. They meet and convince/kidnap historical figures from different eras to bring back to San Dimas, California so they can do their final report and pass the class. Chaos and hilarity ensue as the historical figures cause chaos in 1980s southern California.
Along the way they become friends with Billy the Kid, Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Abraham Lincoln. They also meet two Tudor princesses (fictional daughters of Henry VI) with whom they fall in love, and, eventually, form the world-shaping band Wyld Stallyns.
Okay, synopsis done. But I suspect most of you reading this have seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Some of you may even have seen the aptly named Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. So, what makes this particular film pulp?
Glad you asked.
What does pulp require? Well, if you’ve paid attention to the works we write about and stories we publish, it requires action-oriented protagonists who drive the plot forward based on doing things rather than sitting around and staring at their belly buttons while waiting for something else to happen. People doing great things in the service of accomplishing their goals, and a plot that changes as the characters take action.
Although our heroes are not particularly bright, they are determined to succeed. The consequences are just too dire, and not in the sense that the future will collapse, though those are the consequences for time traveler Rufus. For Ted, failure means being sent to an Alaskan military school as punishment from a father who just doesn’t understand his son’s taste in music and friends. For Bill, it means a future without his best friend just when his own life hits peak weirdness as his father has recently married a girl just a few years older than Bill himself. For both, it means their dreams of forming a great rock band going down in flames.
Then there is completely unscientific time travel concept. Time travel is itself a major concept in the realm of pulp fiction, starting with, at a minimum, the work of H.G. Wells. Unlike in the type of sci-fi that follows pulp in the 60s and 70s, there’s clearly no accounting for any sort of scientific accuracy. Admittedly, time travel itself is likely not feasible, but there’s not even a wink and a nod to plausibility. It’s just in the service of the story. It simply exists to allow the plot to move forward.
So why am I even talking about Bill and Ted, an almost 30-year-old movie? This is why.
In the words of Abraham Lincoln
“Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!”
 Side note – George Carlin is without a doubt my favorite stand-up comedian. No one performing today even comes close.
 That this bit of schlock (highly reviewed schlock!) references a classic Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal, which very few people today have likely seen, elevates it a bit higher than I would otherwise classify it. Your time is much better spent watching Bergman’s masterpiece.
 Great in the sense of scale, not moral judgement.