While a lot of 90s exports age like day-old nachos in this neverending conquest for Hollywood to mine every little corner of nostalgia that exists in our pop culture sphere, there is nothing asinine about having Beavis and Butt-Head back in our lives. (Heh-heh-heh-heh, you said a**.)
The couch-surfing, persistently perverted princes of the double entendre and nutshot have returned after roughly 11 years since their most recent televised exploits, and a good 26 years since their last moviegoing adventure. Rather than feel like a contrived play for streaming, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, well, scores, giving fans the kind of grand revival they were hoping for after years of longing for a return from MTV’s most notorious cartoon knuckleheads. While it never quite gets to the absurd heights of that 1996 masterwork, Mike Judge’s delightful doofuses rise anew, packed in with the exact kind of brain-freezing laughter that can come from reaching for the lowest possible hanging wasp’s nest and continuing to kick at it until you are swarmed by its stings.
Judge has spent the bulk of his career exploring the mundanity of the everyman, whether they be horny, pop culture-obsessed teenagers, patriotic propane salespeople, droll officemates, future neanderthals, or Silicon Valley tech bros. His laser-sharp commentary often evades deep dives; the jokes are always on the surface, and that’s the point. He’s long championed the idea that people who take themselves too seriously or try to take advantage of others evade their innate desire: to be true to ourselves, no matter how simple or stupid that might be.
While Judge has openly talked about how idiotic Beavis and Butt-Head are, and how the laughs are always aimed square in their direction, there is a charm to just how committed those two dumba**** are to never understanding anything past their nose and their sophomoric sense of humor. While the adults flail around them trying to make them better or put them in their place, somehow, someway, it’s the teens who stand tall in the end, laughing at how you accidentally made a potty joke.
The new film expands on how Beavis and Butt-Head would fare if sucked into a black hole (yes, they do find the very basic humor of a black hole) and transported into 2022. They misunderstand Siri, crash a gender studies class, completely miss the point of what white privilege means, incite a jail riot that inspired a progressive warden to assume divine intervention, and yes, still completely miss the point that no women are interested in them under any circumstances. Judge and company avoid going for the easy 2022 jokes by going for the easiest 2022 jokes. Again, the original series lived and died on just beating you over the head in the most blatant way for any laugh to hit you until you were numb to Beavis and Butt-Head’s will.
There is a joyful submission in just going with it, in just accepting that these losers will always find their way out of their own buttholes no matter how dicey things get. There is nothing more satisfying than the stately facade on the serious people around Beavis and Butt-Head crashing like a computer drenched in water whenever the teens wiggle their way into a situation and muck it up so bad, but somehow never to their own detriment. Somehow, after all these years, it is still just the funniest thing in the world for Beavis and Butt-Head to torment the more “enlightened” people around them with the stupidest of situational humor.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, at times, does feel the weight of its streaming medium. It never fully becomes as cinematic as its predecessor, nor as anarchistic. The boys haven’t slowed down by any means, but there seemed to be a gravitational pull to set up a Paramount+ revival. It’s never defeating, and no, you never get tired of watching Beavis and Butt-Head find every way to turn activities at space camp into something crass. The film’s first 30 minutes are a lightning rod of crude humor, as funny as the duo have ever been. Everything that follows is still hugely enjoyable (particularly that jail sequence that features a cameo from The Great Cornholio, who, of course, still needs tee-pee for his bunghole), but you could quibble that it’s a little too plotty for what works best with the characters.
With the boys seemingly back for good, it’s a relief that their return feels so much less forced than welcomed. This is not hashtag-content; it’s a reminder that, even to this day, you can still find yourself howling on the couch at the dumbest crotch joke you could imagine. One day, we will all grow sick and tired of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Batman will lose his sheen, the Avatar universe will run out of steam (again?), and the galaxy far, far away will keep it that way. We’ll never lose interest in Beavis and Butt-Head, though. All these years later, they’re as sharp and punishingly funny as ever. It will never be hard to jump back into action with these morons.