Mike Judge’s enduring slacker duo return for a space travel adventure of wonderfully mindless proportions.
Nothing will top “Top Gun: Maverick” this summer in its profound ability to please an rabid fanbase, but second place now has a strong contender with “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe.” Coming to Paramount+ more than 25 years after the iconic teen idiots landed their first feature-length production (pause and reflect on how old you are; now consider that “Do America” grossed a staggering $63 million at the box office), the film it probably won’t create throngs of new devotees, but even casual fans will love it. The film delivers on its promise – it is indeed a Beavis and Butt-Head film, though it doesn’t “do” the whole “universe” – in a way that is both strangely comforting and wonderfully stupid.
Starting shortly after the events of “Do America,” director/writer/producer/creator/voice Mike Judge releases his nonchalant creations in Highland, Texas, where virtually nothing has changed for the pair despite being considered honorary ATF agents for the then-president. Bill Clinton at the conclusion of the first movie (again, a truly different time). Also blissfully unchanged is the raw 2D style of the animation; the movie looks like it could have aired on MTV three decades ago, and that’s a compliment. Totally indifferent to the upheavals their lives have taken, Beavis and Butt-Head return to Highland High School in pursuit of their true dream: to “tag” with whoever has them.
Of course, no one wants them and so they pass the time with the usual jokes, which eventually lead to lighting up the Highland science fair, blowing up the gym, and facing what appear to be real criminal consequences. But since this part of the movie takes place in 1998 (literally a different time!), they are presented with a kind-hearted judge softened enough by episodes of “Touched by an Angel” to send the pair to a space camp rather than juvy or prison. Eight weeks in space camp is sure to unlock unexplored (hehehehe, “explored”) depths in these at-risk youths, setting them on a new path to, if not success, at least not abject failure.
Instead, Beavis and Butt-Head become obscenely, if understandably in love with a huge (hehehehe, “butt”) piece of machinery that, yes, OK, definitely looks like a giant dong. After spending hours and hours starting a docking sequence that real astronauts struggle to complete, mission leader Serena Ryan (voiced by Andrea Savage) comes across a hilarious idea: They’ll take Beavis and Butt-Head into space to “make this” to real. Of course, Beavis and Butt-Head misinterpret the “do” and “it” that Serena proposes and opt for the show, convinced they’re being launched into the ether to have sex in space with the beautiful astronaut.
Yes, it is indeed a Beavis and Butt-Head movie. Prolonged setting aside, the pair takes off, immediately fucks up the mission, are left to die plotting Serena, and eventually find their way into a black hole (hehehehe, “hole”) that spits them out onto a beach in Galveston, Texas. set in present-day 2022. And while the film’s title promises a universe-spanning adventure, the vast majority is set in good old Texas, with a twist: Beavis and Butt-Head are intermittently visited by other versions of themselves ( most intelligent beings, marginally). In fact, “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” is yet another multiverse movie, and while Judge doesn’t fully embrace the possibilities, he certainly leaves the door open for more shenanigans.
Back on Earth, Beavis and Butt-Head struggle to get used to a new world with mixed results. Smart phones confuse and delight – a little TV that can also pay for things? sold! — and lead Beavis to form an oddly sweet relationship with Siri (whom he mistakes for Serena; he can only be Beavis, really). As they wander through Texas with the vague idea of going home, they are pursued by Serena (now governor of the state), her puppy dog lieutenant, several government agents convinced the planet has been invaded by aliens, and even Smart Beavis and Smart Butt Head. Wild twists, turns and misunderstandings proliferate, Beavis and Butt-Head continue to totally reject any semblance of personal responsibility and continue to thrive.
Judge maintains his keen ability to take both sides of any debate about Beavis and Butt-Head; but given the fertile ground of life in 2022, it’s not deployed as often as one might expect. While the duo has been involved in everything from a prison riot to Serena’s stupid political campaign, Judge’s script really only goes complete in a segment that sees Beavis and Butt-Head becoming aware of their white privilege, which they immediately deploy for all the wrong reasons (the pair freaking out through a college cafeteria, gleefully screaming about how they have power and don’t have to worry about the cops, is already an all-time timer).
“Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” doesn’t fully capitalize on a wealth of possible plots, sends, and diversions, but it does make a case for the dynamically dumb duo to return to even more futile (hehehehe, “crazy”) madness. Certain things don’t go out of style, and that includes obscure BFFs with a panache for finding themselves at the nexus of pivotal events in human history. We miss you both, come back soon.
“Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” begins streaming on Paramount+ on Thursday, June 23.