Back in 1993, MTV introduced us to a pair of epically dumb, apathetic teenagers who had nothing better to do than make mayhem and watch MTV. “Beavis and Butt-Head” provided a funhouse mirror for everybody else planted in front of the TV soaking up music videos. “This is you,” series creator Mike Judge seemed to be saying. A student of stupid – this is the guy who foretold the current state of affairs with “Idiocracy” – Judge somehow made his target audience laugh at themselves.
You might think the boys would be right at home in this day and age. American culture still has a hard-core case of the stupids, and Beavis and Butt-Head were incels before the word even existed, involuntary celibates who desperately want to score with the ladies. This is actually the key plot line in the new movie “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe,” a sporadically funny, painfully stretched-out romp through space travel, time travel, prison, college and, of course, Texas, Judge’s geographical and culture muse (he cut his animation teeth in the Dallas suburb of Richardson).
It’s 1998, and Beavis and Butt-Head still really, really want to score. A mix-up with a female astronaut at space camp (don’t ask) leads to a flood of double entenders, a few of which are actually quite funny, and gets the boys believing their sexual ship has arrived. Instead, they wind up in space with a crew of egomaniacal astronauts, where they cause all kinds of destruction and get sucked into a black hole (insert juvenilia here) that drops them in 2022, which has, like, cell phones and stuff. As it turns out, the female astronaut is now running for re-election as Texas governor. And her face is on all of these billboards, which must mean she’s still interested.
Plotting was never a strength of “Beavis and Butt-Head,” and that was fine as long as their escapades were presented in bite-size chunks with music videos. (Paramount + will also stream remastered versions of the original TV episodes, with the videos intact, starting Thursday, June 23.) A previous feature film, “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” kept it simple; someone stole B & B’s TV, and their voyage to reclaim it leads to some ripe travelogue social commentary. But it’s generally not a good idea to map out an entire story for these guys.
At 86 minutes, “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe” feels twice that long. Most of the good laughs are front-loaded in the premise; the rest pop up every 15 or 20 minutes, which isn’t exactly prime Mel Brooks ratio. Beavis and Butt-Head are stupid, and they’re horny, which is not enough to sustain gags for a whole movie.
That doesn’t mean all is lost. Wandering into a university gender-studies class (again, don’t ask), our heroes receive a lecture on white privilege: You think you can get away with anything, the police will never bother you, etc. Beavis and Butt-Head, being Beavis and Butt-Head, take this as a good thing. They leave the classroom and go on a shoplifting spree and steal a police car, arguing at each step that they’re entitled to all of this because, you know, white privilege. It’s one of those moments when the “Beavis and Butt-Head” sensibility translates perfectly to the here and now – a moment all too rare in a movie that loses sight of the line between lampooning stupidity and being stupid.
K“Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe”: Comedy. Starring Mike Judge, Tig Notaro, Nat Faxon, Gary Cole, Chi McBride and Stephen Root. Directed by Mike Judge. (TV-14. 86 minutes.) Premieres Thursday, June 23, on Paramount +.