Bringing “Beavis & Butt-head” back sounded like a terrible, no good idea.
The ’90s numbskulls are a terrible fit for our all woke, no joke age. Their incessant sex talk alone is problematic.
“Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe” doesn’t change the boys a bit. It’s as crude and sexually obsessed as ever, and the film features a glorious attack on so-called White Privilege.
Best of all? Absence did make the heart go fonder for dimwits who make Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas look like rocket scientists.
Our “heroes” stumble their way to space camp after destroying their school’s science fair exhibit. The lads’ penchant for sexual metaphors lands them a gig on a real space shuttle, and that’s where the time-traveling plot kicks in.
The boys sabotage the mission and enter a black hole. The snafu catapults them from the ’90s to 2022, but their space commandeer (Andrea Savage) is hot on their trail. She’s now a governor with political ambition to burn, and the boys’ survival threatens her ascent. (The news reported they died on the space shuttle)
Except the boys think she just wants to score with them. Of course.
That plot sets a series of farcical bits in motion, and they’re shrewdly calculated to move a show known for brevity to the 90-minute mark.
Beavis falls in love with Siri, the iPhone voice assistant. Cornholio returns in a way that’s both daffy and clever. And, at every turn, the boys’ raging stupidity works to their advantage.
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“Universe” laps “Beavis & Butt-head Do America,” the 1996 theatrical extension of the MTV series. The jokes land better and the story rarely lags. The screenplay, credited to show creator Mike Judge and Lewis Morton, does more than milk a few recurring bits for real laughs.
They upend woke expectations on several fronts.
A dated reference to “Touched by an Angel” lets the story savage “soft on crime” policies. A throwaway line compares Antifa to MS-13, something few other comedies would bring up.
The boys also stumble into a Gender Studies class where they learn all about White Privilege.
We can do anything we want because we’re white? Cool.
Except their very existence shatters the White Privilege lie. These boys are like many teens out there in the ’90s and now. They’re white, lower middle class and possess little cultural clout. And it took a character named Butt-head for pop culture to expose it.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Judge resisted woke’s siren song. He previously created “The Goode Family,” a short-lived sitcom mocking social justice types before we began using that phrase.
His long-running “King of the Hill” sitcom mocked Texas culture without the mean-spirited edge others might have brought to the gig.
The animation here is perfunctory, of course. The animated shorts of yore were always below the industry norm. “Universe” isn’t as hard to watch as those classic “B&B” episodes, which makes it less of a distraction.
The biggest miracle of all? Judge’s singular voice work as both Beavis and Butt-head feels as fresh as ever. Their incessant laughter and ability to find sexual references in every third sentence remains a hoot.
“Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe” proves some Hollywood nostalgia acts can surprise us.
HiT or Miss: “Beavis and Butt-head Do the Universe” has no interest in removing the characters’ problematic tics, and that’s reason enough to savor their return.