ONEanyone looking for a window into the absurdities and stupidities of late 20th century life could do far worse than the original televised misadventures of Beavis and Butt-Head. Of course, Mike Judge’s animated sensation, who disguised his high satire as the lowliest of vulgar comedy, was also something of a mirror. Who were your eternally apathetic, horny, and destructive teen heroes, but sidewalk caricatures of teens watching from home? With Beavis and Butt-Head, MTV satirized its own audience — a whole generation of fellow hipsters — along with the countless other American stereotypes that passed into the duo’s orbit over the course of seven seasons.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe is not so much a window or a mirror. The hook of this new feature-length vehicle is that it uproots television’s densest duo from their natural ’90s habitat and deposits them squarely in the modern world. America hasn’t gotten any less spoofable in the 30 years since Beavis and Butt-Head made their ignoble big screen debuts; there’s no shortage of contemporary targets for Judge to lock in his comic crosshairs. So why does the film feel like a missed opportunity in the satire department, even when its eponymous lazy assholes have plenty of familiar laughs?
Judge, who returns to writing, directing, and once again voicing his most iconic, moronic characters (yes, that’s still the filmmaker who provides Butt-Head’s low, monotonous laugh and Beavis’s loudest laugh), lends a page. from another popular pair of high school Gen X jesters: like Bill and Ted, Beavis and Butt-Head end up literally traveling through time – in this case, through a black hole they get sucked into during a Nasa mission they screw up. What are America’s most clueless teenagers doing aboard a space shuttle? Blame an altruistic judge and a serious astronaut (Andrea Savage) who mistakes the boys’ obsession with a phalically suggestive docking procedure out of scientific curiosity.
Navigating through time and space is a big leap for these two, whose first film sent them across the comparatively smaller border of the United States. However, 1996’s Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was a more cinematic affair overall; some of his cleverness boiled down to how Judge expanded the narrative canvas and elevated the excitement of his TV comedy while toying with the expectation that the duo could do something more dramatic on the big screen than getting high and laughing at national landmarks. Befitting its fate as humble streaming content, Do the Universe is structured more like a spree – though don’t expect any of the priceless Mystery Science Theater 3,000 music video commentary that proved the unvarying highlight of any real B&B episode.
The film’s best scenes explore the comedic possibilities of Beavis and Butt-Head colliding with a supposedly brighter present. At one point, they wander into a college classroom, where their usual talk about “bitches” is suddenly greeted as sexual positivity; naturally, they take the wrong lesson from the instructor’s crash course on white privilege. The Universe could use more culture shock riffs and less of the clumsy antics of Deep State agents tracking Beavis and Butt-Head. Perhaps it’s a relief that Judge hasn’t made current jokes about the current political landscape, which has proved notoriously difficult to satirize in recent years. Still, his social remarks are generally more trenchant than the smartphone misunderstandings and offhand references to antifa that pass here for a 2022 perspective.
Do the Universe is a hair more creative as a sci-fi parody, thanks to a joke about guys ignoring instructions from their smarter multiverse counterparts. (As it turns out, “smarter” remains a relative distinction when you’re talking about any version of Beavis and Butt-Head.) Mainly, the film builds on a lingering affection for the duo’s reliable and fun troglodyte troglodyte, their quest by adolescent identity. of sensation and the lizard brain’s quest to lose its stubbornly enduring virginity. In fact, there’s an unexpected note of sweetness in the way Beavis, the most anxious and sensitive of these hopeless juvenile jerks, mistakes Siri for a real woman and falls in love, eventually jeopardizing his friendship with Butt-Head. Is the judge getting soft with age?
Not really. Beavis and Butt-Head don’t grow up in Do the Universe. They can not grow up. All their usefulness as satirical figures depends on their irreformable folly, on the impossibility of changing or teaching or rehabilitating them. Fortunately, time away hasn’t diminished the smart-ass comic value of their personas; watching this latest revival, fans will likely match them laugh for laugh. A better sequel, however, may have found more significant tension between these timeless kids and the ongoing dumbing down of the America they were thrust into. heh heh we said impulse.