‘Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe’ Brings the Slacker Icons Into Modern Society Without Changing a Thing
“Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe,” the new feature film debuting on Paramount+, is an extended episode of the cartoon series, blasted into space, jettisoning the music video, and unwarped by time. Mike Judge’s slacker generation poster boys continue to wear their AC/DC and Metallica t-shirts, divide the world’s problems between “cool” and “total sucks,” and fail to get laid.
Writer, producer and director Judge has been providing the voices for Beavis and Butt-Head since his 1992 Liquid Television short film “Frog Baseball.” Airing on MTV, “Beavis and Butt-Head” ran from March 8, 1993, to Nov. 28, 1997. They were pop culture icons. Two horny teenage over-underachievers, flipping burgers at a greasy spoon or flipping off teachers at school, who only want to sit on a couch, eat nachos, riff on MTV music videos, and try to score.
It has been over 26 years since Beavis and Butt-Head made their last big-screen appearance in “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” and 11 years since MTV aired the rebooted “Beavis and Butthead” season 8. In all that time, they have neither aged a day nor learned a thing. Even when the two slacker icons meet their own super-intelligent alternative dimension selves in “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe,” their collective cranial capacity does not enlarge or expand. They still think there’s a chance they’ll get lucky, and that eternal elusive promise keeps them forever young, dumb, and unfulfilled.
The comic duo are always the fortunate recipients of “creative sentencing,” and as silly as the movies or episodes may be, their consequences are always creative. The plot kicks off when a juvenile court judge sentences Beavis and Butt-Head to space camp in then-current-1998, because they are too dense to understand the proceedings. Their docking simulator expertise, besides providing an instant classic animated sequence, is really just a self-actualized happy ending. Asked to join a space shuttle mission by Captain Serena (Andrea Savage), in a Public Relations initiative, Beavis and Butt-Head go along cluelessly because they mistake the nocturnal mission for an intimate emission.
The stakes are much higher for our befuddled anti-heroes in “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe,” and so are the consequences of their actions. Butt-Head pulls off a successful prank which not only destroys an entire high school auditorium science fair, but feeds Beavis’ sociopathic obsession with fire. The pair’s failed intergalactic docking attempt actually causes the death of the awaiting astronaut, and sets back scientific knowledge for decades, not to mention the horrible fate of the stranded flight specialist to follow. Beavis and Butt-Head’s inadvertent mayhem spans two centuries, much the same way Mickey Rooney’s top box office matinee draw did, in a mathematical breakdown on “The Simpsons.”
The film is surprisingly touching. Beavis has an intimate self-revelatory moment with Siri, and the things we learn about his mother’s reaction to his untimely death are truly moving, bringing the film to almost tear-jerking heights even the grinding works of a garbage disposal can’t hide. The things Serena sees in the “two complete idiots” may not be comprehensible to the outside world, but her faith and sense of responsibility is clear. Until she realizes her initial take on the two young astronauts was correct and she sends them hurtling into the adventure of a lifetime. Beavis and Butt-Head are left for dead in space, get sucked into a black hole they believe is an asshole, and are excreted on Earth in 2022 in Texas, where. Serena is now running for governor.
The National Security Administration must really take illegal aliens super serious in Texas because Beavis and Butt-Head are spotted immediately, and deemed Buttholes of Interest. The most advanced minds in extraterrestrial study don’t know what they’re seeing in the composite sketches from eye witnesses, but Beavis and Butt-Head are “definitely not human.” Their discovery of the cell phone is a game changer, and their interpretation of “white privilege” provides a more effective teaching moment than years of sensitivity training.
The plot is well-structured, with dangers, conspiracies, coverups, disrobes, and extremely effective suspense. Every time Beavis or Butt-Head believe they are on the precipice of a big step for mankind, they are forced to walk it back. One sequence, when the pair are unceremoniously booted out into the icy cold of space, stretches out the anticipation for “several days” before the audience realizes Serena wasn’t just “setting a mood.” Beavis and Butt-Head never realize it.
How each of these two perennial virgins consistently find the sexual meaning of every line of dialogue is low-hanging brilliance. Every double entendre is tripled in mid-air somersaults through an atmosphere filled with verbal possibilities, and never grows tiresome. Each variation on a spilled word is inspired cretinism. A dissection of their mouth parts might disagree, but Beavis and Butt-Head appear to exhibit real growth during this film. They learn to approximate the crudest of human speech.
The always-impressive Stephen Root returns to the franchise, leading a guest voice case which includes Gary Cole, Chris Diamantopoulos, Nat Faxon, Brian Huskey, Chi McBride, Tig Notaro, Martin Starr, and Jimmy O. Yang. They succeed in fulfilling the film’s promise to be “the dumbest science fiction movie ever made.” In the end, but not the conclusion, it really is Cornholio who saves the day. He brings hope, and hope is contagious. He has but one bunghole to give. Can he give it to you?
Future top-ten clickbait lists of Stupid Sci-Fi Films will include this space oddity as an evergreen honorable mention. As smart Beavis and smart Butt-Hole may attest, “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” is “quite humorous, droll, whimsical, jocular, and mirthful.” Fans of the original series will love it. The uninitiated will laugh unexpectedly. Those who miss it will remember it fondly.
“Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” begins streaming June 23 on Paramount+.