Beavis and Butthead Do the Universe offers the type of low-stakes low humor that demands little but gives generously to those willing to engage.
Beavis and Butthead: the great snicker-ers of our time, or really, of any time. Which is perhaps why they’ve been called back some 20-plus years since their last cinematic adventure to do essentially that: labeling every sincere individual in the world a “dumbass” while they themselves continue to do the dumbest shit imaginable. They’re also here to “score” at some conceivable point or another, with the carnal act driving the narrative forward with the faintest sense of urgency (more or less getting the main characters from Point A to Point B). They remind us of the moronic juvenility that dwells within every off-handed comment that gets passed off as critical judgment, an enduring sentiment that never ages poorly; the actual humor of Beavis and Butthead the television program, on the other hand, is a different story, one largely dependent upon a viewer’s proclivity toward low comedy and repeated agitation. Make no mistake, there’s still plenty of both in Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, where they’re now “doing” our entire cosmic system of matter and energy instead of just America: the first major howler is a slow-burner, Keaton-esque visual gag that has one of our leads flying across his high school’s gymnasium, the outcome of which finds the heroes placed in an “at-risk” youth program that eventually leads them into space, then a micro black hole, and, finally, into the year 2022. They’re not really in the year 2022 — coronavirus isn’t a thing, no lockdowns are presented, and Biden and Trump are never referenced once — but more a general placeholder for the future in general. So there are no lame stabs at topical humor (there’s a bit where the boys stumble onto an SJW-leaning college group, but the interaction is far more playful than what one would expect given the circumstances), and the biggest missteps — a love triangle involving Siri; a weak non-ending — don’t lean too heavily into cringe comedy either. Generally speaking, this is the platonic ideal for a venture of this sort: no cross-overs, no cash-ins, just vibes.
There’s even something outright refreshingly spartan about how Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe generally operates, which is mainly in the vain of those Futurama made-for-TV movies that were essentially longer episodes with no commercial breaks or enough of a budget to hire big-name vocal talent. There’s a clear understanding of what the intended audience for this is going to demand, what they want, and also what they most definitely do not wish for either — we can all count our lucky stars we don’t get to see Butthead becoming a TikTok star or Beavis teaming up with BTS — which makes the hour-plus fly by at an agreeable enough pace. More of a victory lap for writer/director Mike Judge and his sustained viability than actual cinematic achievement, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe is the type of low-stakes low humor that doesn’t demand much but gives endlessly for those willing to engage. Now, if only we can get the King of the Hill cinematic universe going with the same level of craftsmanship.