Paramount+’s Beavis And Butt-Head Do The Universe Review: Very, Very Stupid, And Very, Very Funny
While surely not part of any kind of actual plan, it’s bizarrely perfect that 2022 is a year that audiences see the tandem return of Jackass (in the form of Jeff Tremaine’s Jackass Forever) and Beavis & Butt-Head (in the form of Mike Judge’s Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe). Both have origins that tie back to the early decades of original television programming on MTV, but more importantly, both brands have a genuine awareness of what they are – and what they are is “very stupid.” There is an unabashed immaturity that is at their core, and they share a comedic sensibility that can best be summed up with the perspective that a man being hit/ smacked/whacked/etc. in the testicles is fundamentally hilarious.
Obviously this is not everyone’s cup of tea, and critics/parents have been raising objections to the material since the shows’ respective inceptions. But both Jackass and Beavis & Butt-Head have found incredible success speaking directly to the audience they know perpetually exists, and an unwillingness to grow up even after 20/30 years of existence has led to wonderful contemporary success.
Back in February it was utterly delightful to see Johnny Knoxville and his friends return to purposefully destroy their bodies and abuse one another for our amusement in Jackass Forever, and now the same can be said about the titular duo in Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe – who have not evolved in any single way since they were introduced back in the early 1990s, and for that we can be thankful. The circumstances in which they find themselves are more extreme than ever in the new feature, but the results are still the same: which is to say they’re still inducing forehead smacks, disbelieving head shakes, and hysterical fits of raucous laughter.
Bringing us back to the year 1998, Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe opens with the latter kicking the former repeatedly in the groin – with the background of the activity being the high school science fair. As you’d expect based on the pair’s history, things end up going horribly wrong and multiple explosions occur, leading the two teenage idiots to find themselves in a courtroom facing sentencing. Rather than dolling out a typical punishment, however, the judge (Chi McBride) is inspired by an episode of Touched By An Angel to show leniency towards the boys, and he offers them the opportunity to attend a NASA space camp instead of sending them to juvenile hall.
While at the special science course, Beavis and Butt-Head prove themselves bizarrely adept at executing a penetrative docking maneuver, and it gets them an opportunity to travel to space and try it for real – though their interpretation of the offer is that they are going to the cosmos for the purpose of having sex with the mission’s leader, Serena Ryan (Andrea Savage). When their true incompetence reveals itself to extreme levels, Serena attempts to have them killed so that she can save the rest of her crew, but instead she sends the morons on a journey through time and space that sees them travel through a black hole back to Earth in the year 2022.
It plays fast and loose with plotting, but Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe is a ridiculous and fun adventure.
That may seem like plenty of plot for a film that comes in under an hour-and-a-half long, but truth be told that description only barely scratches the surface of all the things that happen in Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe. Once they return to Earth, the protagonists are endlessly determined to take Serena up on her “promise” and get laid for the first time, and while that takes them on a journey from one ridiculous circumstance to the next, they are also pursued by both Serena and agents from the FBI – the former wanting to kill them before they can spill any secrets, and the latter wanting to examine and dissect the heroes as sci-fi mysteries… And then there is also the intermittent appearances of a Beavis and Butt-Head from an alternate reality who desperately try to get the duo to commit to a plan that will save the fate of the universe.
Structurally speaking, the movie is kind of a mess, and at no point do you have any clear idea of where it is headed next. But that chaotic energy works for Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe in a way that wouldn’t work for just about any other film because it speaks directly to the way that the characters function (which is to say completely without any kind of real logic).
As it veers from an extravagant nacho buying montage, to a prison riot sequence, to a long ride with the characters in a portable toilet, it doesn’t really make any sense, but it works because Beavis and Butt-Head themselves don’t register how utterly insane their journey is. Mike Judge’s only mission seems to be to try and squeeze as many laughs as he can out of the material, and it’s thankfully a mission that proves to be a success.
Beavis & Butt-Head Do The Universe won’t convert any haters, but it will delight all pre-existing fans.
With its time travel story and toe-dipping into the multiverse, one can certainly register an attempt to literally modernize Beavis and Butt-Head, and part of the fun of the film is seeing them adjust to elements of the modern world like smart phones – but mostly the movie is a celebration of the fact that these characters don’t change, and after more than three decades that’s actually pretty remarkable. Popular culture has evolved a great deal since the 1990s, but the perversion, lazy double-entendres, and lacking attention spans are all as giggle-inducing as ever. Mike Judge knows what fans what with the duo, he doesn’t hesitate to deliver full bore, and it’s fantastic.
Those who have never cared for Beavis and Butt-Head will still find no joy in Beavis and Butt-Head Do The Universe, and I have no idea if it will speak at all to newer generations – but it can be said with absolute certainty that the movie is a gift to Gen X and Millennial fans, and it should be cherished for the genuine idiocy that it is.
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