The 1990s were the heyday for Mike Judge. His series of Milton animated shorts made a splash on Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live, then led to the feature film Office Space. King of the Hill debuted in 1997 and holds the title of the third longest running animated series after The Simpsons and South Park. And a pair of slacker, dumbass, ne’er-do-wells ruled MTV’s airwaves.
Yeah, I’m talking about Beavis and Butt-head.
Calling these two socially awkward might be one of the biggest understatements ever conceived. Not only did they have no idea how to function in society, they really didn’t care to try. Their teachers, classmates and neighbours didn’t know what to do with them. And if they had parents, they were absentees at best. These two boys just wanted to listen to great music and hang with beautiful women. Guess which one actually worked out for them.
After great success came to them on the small screen, and with Judge’s rising Hollywood star giving him some additional clout, Beavis and Butt-head made the leap to the big one with 1996’s Beavis and Butt-head Do America.
The plot is simple. The boys come home to find their TV gone and embark on a mission to retrieve it. Naturally, someone mistakes these two morons for hitmen and sends them out to kill his wife. They make their way across America on a mission that they believe will bring their TV back, running afoul of more than a few quirky characters. They even manage to torment their Hank Hill-esque neighbour, Tom Anderson, who’s also on a cross country trek for far different reasons.
Despite the nature source material, this movie has a surprisingly entertaining and engaging story that sustains through the entire film. The idiocy of the two boys is perfectly framed by being victims of a system that left them behind. Well, they seem to be actively pushing the system to leave them behind at every turn. And it’s actually funny, something that’s often unexpected in a movie lifted from a TV series.
But there’s something missing…
A hallmark of the Beavis and Butt-head TV series was their direct skewering of MTV’s programming, which in that era actually included music videos. In a more recent incarnation of the series, the duo took aim at the ridiculous reality TV programming that populates MTV like an unchecked warren of rabbits continually producing new and less interesting offspring. Like Jersey Shore, which was comparable to a warren of rabbits in a number of ways. This element was missing from the movie. While it had a solid soundtrack, the movie spent no time with the boys doing what they do best which is mock ludicrous TV. It was a straight-forward 80+ minute animated ride with Beavis, Butt-head and Cornholio, the alter ego of Beavis. While it is a solid movie, this element was key to the success of the TV show and noticeable in its absence from the movie.
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Beavis and Butt-head Do America is not for everyone. If you had a love of Cheech and Chong back in the day, you have a better chance of getting into the comedy this 90s-era duo bring to the table. If nothing else, you can enjoy watching the boys run Tom Anderson into the ground one more time.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.