THe question swirling around Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe Mike Judge’s movie-length resurrection of his mid-1990s MTV slacker sensation Beavis & Butt-Head is “Can Beavis and Butt-Head still be funny today, now that We have ostensibly evolved to be a more sensitive culture?” The answer is that Beavis and Butt-Head—bored, unattractive teenage boys perpetually in search of getting laid, a goal that will surely elude them for all eternity—are still funny. It’s we who have gotten less funny, both more cautious about laughing at things we shouldn’t and more demanding that our humor come with a side order of redeeming intelligence. No wonder we’re miserable.
Fair enough, 2022 is a very unhappy time. It’s difficult sometimes to find things to smile at. But maybe that’s why the oafish naivete of Beavis and Butt-Head feels more like a salve than a throwback. This is just a small list of the many things that take place in It’s Beavis & Butt-head that Do The Universe Beavis and Butt-Head set their high-school gym on fire during a science fair, are chosen to be blasted into space thanks to their fixation with certain repetitive gestures, and encounter versions of themselves from a future dimension, superior beings (though it’s all relative) who look very much like the Beavis and Butt-Head we know, except they shimmer along in Grecian-style togas and dispense wisdom, of sorts, without snickering. The whole plot is set in motion by a “lady” astronaut named Serena (Andrea Savage), who, the guys believe, has offered to have sex with them. The plot also includes interplanetary time travel. As Beavis muses when he’s introduced to the concept of the wormhole, “I always wondered how worms score.”
Judge’s original show, which aired from 1993 to 1997, with a brief resurrection in 2011, was a crudely animated—and crude, period—hootenanny of hormones and boredom. The minimalist visuals were so simple they could almost be called a relaxation drug. This 1996 film Beavis and Butthead Do America Although it was as silly as the show’s humor, their characters weren’t as funny on the big screen. On the larger screen, their intentional flatness was a strange delight that is so hard to see on television.
Another thing was that it felt transgressive or lazy to watch this show at home while sitting on the couch at home. This group of characters looked like they belonged there. These were the thriving residents of what our dads used as the idiot box. You felt betrayed by their couch-potato kingdom to step outside your living room only to find these characters growing larger than life. Now that we all watch them at home, however, Butt-Head and Beavis Do the Universe—available to stream from Paramount+—feels properly scaled. It’s also a trim, invigorating 96 minutes long. Judge—who also wrote the script, and who, as always, provides the voices of both characters—knows just how much Beavis and Butt-Head is Too Many Beavis and butt-Head.
Surely, though, in the 25 years they’ve been off the scene, our hapless youthful cretins must have learned something? With their pasty legs and black socks, their extravagantly misguided mullet-pompadours, their terrible nostrils, they’re still walking versions of the eternal crisis in masculinity—they simply have no clue what they’re doing. Yet perhaps that’s their big selling point, especially today. At one point Beavis and Butt-Head wander into a modern-day gender studies class, and though the teacher at first praises them for using the word “slut” in a sex-positive way, they cluelessly push their luck in the horndog department, attracting the ire of both instructor and students. “This is a classic example of white privilege, and you two have it,” the teacher scolds.
They have no idea what she means—not just because they’re frozen in the late 1990s, but because they’re not terribly bright. After several students have tried to explain the situation, they suddenly lighten up. Their surprise was not surprising. It was a wonderful gift. They rush through the campus with abandon, cutting in front of other kids in the cafeteria line, doing whatever they darn well please, with even less regard than usual for society’s basic everyday niceties.
Judge knows exactly what he’s doing; Beavis and Butthead the show was both satire and straightforward celebration of the mighty id, with the two so intricately entwined you couldn’t tell which was which. So much has changed in 25 years, but Beavis and Butt-Head haven’t. Guilelessness is hard to come by today, in comedy or anywhere; we’re all so damn KnowingAll the time. It is the joy of Butt-Head and Beavis Do the Universe is that these two haven’t gotten the memo. It’s true, they know no greater amusement than kicking one another in the ‘nads. They discover with horror, that their favorite TV has been taken out of service and replaced with books. But they’re their own worst enemies. It’s a joke. Always These are theirs. You can’t help but laugh at every gag. They don’t even try to redeem themselves. As cartoons, they’re free in ways we never could, or should, be. They should always be able to get plenty of TP to fill their holes.
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