Directed By Mike Judge
Starring – Mike Judge, Gary Cole, Chris Diamantopoulos
The 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 (Judge voices both) misuse Iphones, embark on a quest to score, and become targets of the Deep State.
This film is currently not rated
During an age where comfort in nostalgia usually brings with it a soulless rehashing in product that compromises the integrity of its origins, “Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe” is the exact contradiction to the rule, feeling all the more nourishing in entertainment value the further it refuses to change in the same vein of its titular duo of protagonists. This is most apparent in the range of the humor, which while not as consistently effective as 1996’s “Beavis and Butthead Do America”, does elicit with it the same mind-arresting alternative side to humor that relishes in the ironies of its character designs. This affords the duo the capability to constantly elude dangerous characters and devastating circumstances with the kind of distracted ignorance that causes careless recklessness to the naivety of the surrounding environment with hilarious unrelenting impact. It also nearly refuses to rehash old gags, albeit with the exception of the iconic Corn Hollio, instead sifting through various contemporary social issues like white privilege, toxic masculinity, and technological dependency with the kind of ridiculousness in depiction that simultaneously narrates its problems, while unleashing Beavis and Butthead to make a total mockery of each too silly to ever take seriously. Beyond this, Judge evades the decision to enhance his animation styles with the benefit of evolved technology, instead sticking with the simplistic charms of two-dimensional hand-drawn illustrations echoing the consciousness of artistic merit during a simpler time in mainstream animation. Though this isn’t a film that will wow you for the realism of its depiction, the much-appreciated additions of high definition give the color and scope a never before seen plushness to the franchise that transfixes its appeal and transcends the preconceived limitations of this feeling like an extended episode. This sentiment is echoed further with the film’s story, which on the surface appears to be another quest of the duo to soil their oats, but evolves to multi-dimensional exploration across three decades with no shortage of ambition to its prominence. It’s nothing deep or sentimentally poetic as “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, but it does bring with it a few unique angles to the gimmick that justify the cause, especially with how it brings the duo up to speed from where they left off to where their audience now exist. This all takes shape with a collection of comedians at the helm, making up the film’s gifted ensemble, but none are more prominent than Judge taking the reigns once more to embody the morons that made him a household name. Perhaps most impressive is Judge’s seamless portrayal, which thirty years after he first voiced the characters hasn’t changed in tone or dynamic, and here maintains the commitment to teenage consciousness that feels frozen in time with where he last left them, with the ignorance of Beavis, or the delayed impulses of Butthead radiating a nuance of believability over the characters. Judge’s merits are further maintained with credible work in the form of Nat Faxon, Tig Notaro, Martin Starr, Andrea Savage, and even Mad TV’s Phil Lamarr and David Herman rounding out a dream team of character actors who endear these personalities with larger than life influence over the scenes they prominently decorate.
Complaining about believability in a Beavis and Butthead movie probably makes me sound like the third in their brotherly tribe, but it is a problem when those hurdles of convenience halt the navigation of the narrative with concentration-breaking instances that are far too repetitive to follow. Without spoiling anything, I will ask a few out of context questions that illustrate my points. How does the group manage to keep a smart phone alive without a battery charger and little to no knowledge of the phone’s necessities, how do they survive in space for several days without eating? and how does this story begin in 1998 when the rebirth of the MTV show had in the current times of 2016, with Jersey Shore constantly on their television sets? Most people won’t have a problem suspending disbelief when you watch a film as mindlessly dumb and neurotic as this one, but I’ve always felt believability should be maintained in any film, especially when here I feel like it would push the conflict further than it ever comes close to maintaining. This brings me to my second problem: a lack of permanence to this installment. While Beavis and Butthead is typically a week-by-week show with little continuity between episodes, the films should really supplant some semblance of stakes and influence to what they conjure, but that isn’t the case here. Not only does this leaving the script feeling heavily predictable, and not in ways that feed into the aforementioned nostalgic humbling, but it also leaves the denouement of the climax feeling heavily inconsequential with the multiple dimensions and ambition it continuously leans heavily on. Finally, though the least offensive of the drawbacks, the often repeated cliche of a third act break-up does victimize the occasional brilliance and originality of its protagonists. In any other film, this isn’t as compromising because we haven’t spent thirty years with those characters, but here it feels like a contradiction of their characters, especially the kind who never let feelings of temporary pettiness get in the way of their one track minds. Like most films that pull on this gimmick, it resolves itself rather quickly, leaving the necessity of its justification feeling like padding to an otherwise perfectly paced film, where emotions get the better of two characters who are essentially brain-dead.
Writer and director Mike Judge returns to the scene of the crime with a refreshing warmth of nostalgic ambiance that is neither harmful nor desperate in the ways it cathartically pulls from. Though “Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe” isn’t as consistently taut as its superior predecessor, there’s a simplistic charm to the experience that evades expectations with the need to laugh during a time where the longtime friends feel more pivotal than ever before.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-