"Beavis and Butt-head Do America" successfully brings to the big screen those no-brainer nerds who have brought laughter to living rooms around the world for nearly four years. There's been much analysis of the appeal of the two geeky early-teen virgins who are fueled by raging hormones and who'll say anything, much of which is crude, that pops into their empty heads.
Yet it seems simple enough: They reassure us that there could be unthinking people out there who make mistakes more stupid--OK, as stupid as--most of us do, and they're usually hilarious while doing it. Of course, with their total lack of inhibition, they'll say things that many people feel but wouldn't dare to express, which allows for a satirical spin to their exploits and utterances. "Beavis and Butt-head Do America" has a great look, placing the boys, drawn in a symbolically rudimentary style, against backgrounds deftly evoked with minimal fuss.
Their creator, Mike Judge, who also provides the gurgly voices of both guys, and his co-writer Joe Stillman imaginatively send the duo off on cross-country adventures all because someone stole their TV set. A drunken macho guy in a motel mistakes the two as the lugs he's hired to knock off his wife; they in turn think that when they've been signed up to "do" her they figure they're about to lose their virginity at last.
A couple of plot twists and turns later they're running around the country with a gizmo sewn in Beavis' pants containing a virus capable of wiping out all mankind. You're likely to recognize instantly the voice of Robert Stack, who amusingly brings his humorless Eliot Ness tones to an implacable agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Cloris Leachman voices a breezy old lady the boys encounter on their travels.
As Judge himself has said, his picture is essentially a road movie, and he takes Beavis and Butt-head to a beautifully detailed, sweepingly scaled Las Vegas and on to Hoover Dam, where naturally they unknowingly open the water channels, and on to the White House. All the myriad drawings that depict these familiar settings suggest them with utmost economy and lightness of touch but also with a sense of authenticity.
While Beavis and Butt-head aren't likable, with their ferret-like looks and personalities, they have an essentially innocent obliviousness that makes you root for them to survive their constant flow of misapprehensions, many of them potentially lethal. God must be watching over these fools, who are also still basically children.
* MPAA rating: PG-13, for continuous crude sex-related humor and language, and for a drug-related scene. Times guidelines: Some parents may find the film's humor unsuitable for their children, especially younger ones.
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'Beavis and Butt-head Do America'
Beavis: Voice of Mike Judge
Butt-head: Voice of Mike Judge
Agent Flemming: Voice of Robert Stack
Old Woman on Plane and Bus: Voice of Cloris Leachman
A Paramount presentation in association with Geffen Pictures of an MTV production. Director Mike Judge. Producer Abby Terkuhle. Executive producers David Gale and Van Toffler. Screenplay by Judge and Joe Stillman. Based on "MTV's Beavis and Butt-head" created by Judge. Animation director Yvette Kaplan. Art director Jeff Buckland. Design director Sharon Fitzgerald. Film editors Terry Kelley, Gunter Glinka, Neil Lawrence. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.