One of the prime “rules” of screenwriting is that your main character has to change. Not just throughout the movie, but a little bit by the end of every scene, even. Yet part of the appeal of so many classic big-screen clowns is that they don’t change—or at least, if they do, they’re back to square one by the next movie. The Three Stooges will never resolve their differences peacefully. Hardy’s always going to blame Laurel. Costello cannot ever learn to be as brave as Abbott. And Beavis and Butt-head, despite the occasional lifeline thrown to them by the misguided kindness of people like hippie teacher Mr. Van Driessen, will remain dumb, destructive, nacho-loving horndogs who seldom get closer to actual sexual intercourse than an accidental double entendre. All of which is to say that Beavis And Butt-head Do The Universe is pretty much what you expect—and it’s, uhhhhh, pretty cool.
At 86 minutes, and with a fairly limited cast, this is closer to those movie-length streaming episodes of South Park than it is Beavis And Butt-head Do America, which had multiple storylines, conspicuous bigger-budget sequences, and significant roles for fan-favorite supporting characters like clueless Korean War vet Tom Anderson. But aside from a brief sequence near the beginning of BABDTU, none of the duo’s usual foils and foes figures into the plot. And for those who care about such things, it breaks canon, sending Beavis and Butt-head through a black hole from 1998 into the year 2022, and thus negating the timeline existence of season 8 (aka The Mike Judge Collection Volume 4), where they piloted drones and watched Twilight. That said, it also adds some tantalizing tidbits to the mythology, such as it is, including Beavis’ mom’s name, and their actual street address.
Most significantly, though—and the trailers already spoiled this—it cribs from Rick and Morty, and every other “multiverse” movie and show, by introducing the notion of infinite variant Beavis and Butt-heads throughout the universe. Two of them, dubbed Smart Beavis and Smart Butt-head, garbed like Marvel’s Watchers, figure into the plot here, occasionally and futilely attempting to guide their stupider selves. As in Do America, the plot gets set in motion when Beavis and Butt-head misunderstand an attractive woman’s offer to “do it for real.” Because Serena, the woman in question, is an astronaut, this puts the duo aboard the space shuttle, and later hurled through time. By 2022, Serena’s a successful politician who’s convinced she killed the boys, while they in turn still determine to make her deliver on what they perceived her promise to be.
Making Beavis and Butt-head walking anachronisms like the lead family in The Brady Bunch Movie may sound like a cheap gimmick, but it’s essential to any new audience’s ability to connect with them. In director/creator Mike Judge’s high school days, and throughout the ’90s, the stupid teens who wore heavy metal T-shirts every day, blew up animals with fireworks, laughed at every sex joke, and “never scored” would likely end up forgotten, in dead-end jobs in some small town. Nowadays, though, those types are on 8chan planning school shootings and sharing Nazi memes. Recall MTV’s conscious attempts after the show’s first season to turn the doofus duo into the sole victims of their own stupidity, after they were initially depicted as genuinely malicious delinquents who smoked, mugged Mexican kids for fireworks, and inhaled stove gas for kicks. Having them unable to use the Internet likewise side-steps a whole lot of contemporary problems.
(It’s nevertheless amusing to note that AC/DC and Metallica shirts remain a staple of both eras.)
Interestingly, though, the movie does specifically go out of its way to show at least one actual death caused by Beavis and Butt-head’s antics this time, though it’s a throwaway never mentioned again. For the most part, they still harm themselves more than anyone else, all while causing massive amounts of damage. Judge, as he always has, makes it clear that society isn’t blameless here—numerous adults and authority figures simply don’t pay enough attention to these two morons. But it’s also clear that even if somebody did care, it wouldn’t help much. Butt-head’s constant abusive behavior towards Beavis gets mildly interrogated, but at the end, Beavis’ libido and pyromania will always draw him back to his biggest enabler.
In the film’s funniest sequence, Beavis and Butt-head learn the concept of white privilege, and proceed to abuse it for all it’s worth. It’s not clear what Gen Z will make of all this, but it’s not necessarily made for them. Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe is a film for the ’90s fans, their creator notably included within that designation. It taunts us by having them come home 14 years later and not encounter any older versions of familiar side players, but that’s presumably sequel fodder, if needed.
With Titmouse handling the animation, the artwork looks a bit weird this time out, with some supporting characters looking more like Archer rejects rather than Judge grotesques. No doubt that sped production along, but it’s not quite the same. Still, at least the humor is. You know exactly what kind of jokes you’re getting with these two, and it’s all in the delivery.
Yeah. Their delivery rules. It rules! Heh heh m heh heh.