In "Beavis and Butt-head Do America," America survives -- but just barely.
The movie, like the MTV show that spawned it, is crude, ugly, sexist, nihilistic, ugly, stupid, also very ugly, and funny as all get // out. Beavis and Butt-head rule!
They are a curious pair, not really a product of animation (which is purposely abysmal) but of attitude. As an alleged grown-up, I get them completely mixed up, but I don't think it matters. They appear to be teen-age metalheads, brothers possibly, devotees
of AC/DC and Metallica; they wear short pants; they have pimples, braces, gummy smiles, narrow heads; and they don't talk so much as gurgle some kind of droogspeak only marginally decipherable.
Here's what they believe in: nothing. Here's what they know: nothing. Here's what they care about: nothing. Here are their prospects: zero. Two impulses cut through the fog of pop cult, loud music and induced stupor that is their normal state of existence: sex (which they haven't had yet) and drugs (mainly caffeine). Other than that, they hardly seem to notice they are alive.
In larger terms, this is depressing, one supposes; in smaller terms, it's extremely amusing, as these two members of the walking dead drift through a life that consists merely of satisfying the most basic of appetites and feeling nothing else. It's not that they don't see the forest for the trees; it's not even that they don't see the trees. It's that they don't even know what a tree is!
Their creator, director and performer (Mike Judge, who does both voices) gets endless hilarity out of the ratlike narrowness of their brains. For example, the geysers at Yellowstone mean nothing to them; when they discover electric-eye urinals in the men's room, they think that's the coolest thing ever.
Judge has come up with an amusing conceit for the movie, not really a plot, but just a way to get the boys in motion across this great land of ours while the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, led by Robert Stack's para-fascist tonalities, hunts them desperately. Through the kind of mix-up that could only happen in a cartoon or in real life, they are confused for hit men by a gun smuggler and come into possession of an extremely fragile germ warfare weapon about the size of one of those little plastic get-all-the-numbers-in-a-row games. It's sewn into the seat of somebody's pants (sorry, couldn't tell which one). If it breaks, six square miles come down with an immediate outbreak of terminal death.
Their guardian angel throughout this ordeal is their indifference. Being completely unself-aware, they skate through desperate circumstances with dysfunctional-level alertness. According to this text, God must look after dwarfish, fish-brained miscreant outcasts as a high priority. Possibly, He has a sense of humor after all.
Their responses forever betray the cramped attic of their minds, their utter connectionless mode of existence. Confronted, say, by a psycho with a shotgun, their response is, "Cool gun."
On the other hand, confronted with the death of the planet, they might be inclined to utter, "What planet?"
The movie boasts the utter cruelty of youth as its highest moral value. It takes complete pride in the fact that it recognizes no other life force than teen hormonal compulsions. In one of its monstrously macabre touches, it insists on involving the boys with old people of doddering goodness and optimism, all of whom get squashed, beaten, folded, spindled, mutilated and ultimately arrested as a consequence. The boys don't care. They really don't. They don't even notice.
"Beavis and Butt-head Do America" is profoundly depressing and as a responsible adult I have every intention of mourning its deadness of spirit and bleakness of possibility, as soon as I stop laughing.
'Beavis and Butt-head Do America'
Directed by Mike Judge
Released by Paramount
Rating PG-13 (sexual innuendo, language)
Sun score ***
Pub Date: 12/20/96