Plot: After a “creative” judge sentences them to space camp, a black hole sends our adolescent heroes 24 years into the modern future where the duo misuse Iphones, embark on a quest to score and become targets of the Deep State.
Review: It has been eleven years since the last new episode of Beavis and Butt-Head on the small screen and twenty-six since their lone big-screen adventure, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Blending the scope of feature films and the new world of streaming services, Mike Judge’s iconic 90s slackers are back in a new movie set to debut on Paramount+. While it eschews the commentary over music videos the television series relied on, Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe delivers a big-scale epic in line with their last movie while mining a whole new generation of pop culture, social trends, and politics without losing their vulgarity and immature brilliance.
While the 2011 revival of Beavis and Butt-Head brought the two moronic characters into a contemporary setting with little explanation of the passage of time, Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe opens in 1998 with the duo at their high school’s science fair. Set two years after their movie, Beavis and Butt-Head (once again voiced by Mike Judge) are eventually sentenced to spend time at a NASA summer camp where they inevitably join a real mission into outer space. As the trailers show, a series of events ends up shooting them forward in time to 2022 where the rest of the film takes place. Engaging with new technology and the vast changes since the late 1990s, Beavis and Butt-Head spend the next hour of the ninety-minute movie dissecting everything around them. There is also a plot involving alternate universe versions of Beavis and Butt-Head as well as dueling government officials out to capture the teens who are themselves on a mission to score with a hot chick.
Where the first movie was received as a satirical look at teenagers that was surprisingly as funny as it was vulgar, Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe works as a send-up of all the nostalgic reboots and revivals that have become a mainstay of streaming services in recent years. Since it takes place in animated form, this movie maintains a consistent look to the previous film and doesn’t try to change the formula that made this franchise so famous for so long. There is little in the way of a soundtrack to this movie as there was in the first with the majority of the time spent on scatological jokes, toilet humor, and thinly veiled sex references. Basically, this is everything you would expect from Beavis and Butt-Head but updated to make fun of iPhones and white privilege.
Aside from the two main characters, a few legacy supporting players are seen briefly at the beginning, but the movie makes way for an entirely new cast. The main performances come from Andrea Savage, Chi McBride, Gary Cole, and Nat Faxon who are all on the hunt for Beavis and Butt-Head as they try to make their way home to get laid. There are also appearances from Tig Notaro, Stephen Root, Martin Starr, Jimmy O. Yang, Chris Diamantopolous, and more, many of whom have worked with Judge on Office Space and Silicon Valley. Everyone is reverential to the classic series and does it justice, but Mike Judge remains the MVP of this movie as he doesn’t sound any different than he did when he first started playing these roles during the MTV generation of the show.
While Mike Judge shares screenwriting duties with Lew Morton, the animator hands over the director’s chair to John Rice (The Angry Birds Movie 2) and Albert Calleros (Disenchantment). The filmmakers and writers have filled this movie with a good amount of gross humor ranging from groin kicks to digging in a toilet, but this movie manages to have a surprising amount of emotional depth. Considering the tone and style of Beavis and Butt-Head, I was surprised at how it managed to actually develop these characters a bit more while still keeping classic schtick like The Great Cornholio as hilariously dumb as it always has been,
Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe worked for me as both a return to a series that helped define my teenage years as well as a hilarious return to animation for Mike Judge. As I hold out hope for the King of the Hill revival, this movie has shown me that no matter how much we grow up, inside each of us is a kid who chuckles whenever we meet someone named Jack, Dick, or Johnson. Beavis and Butt-Head are just as stupid as they ever were, but their dumb innocence allows us to laugh at them while Mike Judge and his co-writers imbue this sequel with a little growth for the both of them that helps us appreciate how much time has gone by and yet how little has really changed. This is a fast-paced, fun movie that I hope represents the first of many returns to Highland, Texas with these loveable idiots.