Directed by: John Rice and Albert Calleros
Distributed by: Paramount+
Written by Patrick Hao
In our culture of reboots, it only makes sense that Beavis and Butt-Head, the obnoxious teens whose juvenile humor and skewed outlook captured the zeitgeist of Gen X culture of the 1990s, were bound to come back. Even when they were rebooted for a season in 2011, it felt a little too early. But, now in the modern media landscape of Tik Tok and corporate hegemony, who better to skewer it than the boys who would, through vulgarity, make some of the most incisive commentaries on the cultural landscape of 90’s MTV. Unfortunately, that incisiveness might be being saved for the reboot series because “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” feels nothing more than a rote backdoor pilot.
For their second film, the first being “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” the titular giggling dimwitted teens (both voiced by series creator and co-writer of the film Mike Judge) are still in 1998 when they find themselves at space camp after an incident at the science fair. There they prove themselves quite adept at putting phallic things into holes that they are recruited for a space mission led by Serena Ryan (Andrea Savage). Thinking Serena wants to “score” with them, they endlessly pursue her, leading her to leave them out in space, claiming it was an accident.
There they get sucked into a black hole and get sent to our modern time, where Serena Ryan is running for governor of Texas. Thinking that they are out to expose her, Ryan attempts to chase them down. Meanwhile, a smart multi-versal version of Beavis and Butt-Head finds the prime duo and implores them to seek a portal that will return them home in order to stop the destruction of the multiverse. It’s a very Bill & Ted plot.
But, you would think that setting these two in the modern age would be ripe for good satire and there are moments here and there. For one, Beavis and Butt-Head wander the halls of a college and stumble onto a gender studies class whose lesson on white privilege makes them actually think that because they are white, they get free rein to do whatever they want. But, those are few and far between. Beavis falling in love with Siri seems rote and tired at this point.
We do not come to “Beavis and Butt-Head” for the plot, which this film feels too confined by. In our all too self-serious culture, it is time for some ironic detachment to skewer our media and cultural landscape. However, the film never goes beyond the sophomoric humor of sexual innuendos, which have lost their sense of transgressiveness. At least the writers of the film never lose the inherent sweetness behind these dumb dumbs. If Judge was ever saying anything with these characters, it is how the disenfranchisement and detachment they feel comes from the insecurity of a world that has left them behind.
There is a place for Beavis and Butt-Head in 2022. “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” does not necessarily make a compelling argument for it, but at least it provides a comfortable viewing – something I am sure would shock most people back in the 1990s to say. With this, “Jackass,” and “Jurassic Park,” it is safe to say that the cyclic nature of nostalgia brands has scarily reached the 1990s.
“Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe” Trailer