Americana Movie Month: "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" Review

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Our intrepid adolescent heroes wake up to find their beloved television stolen, and embark on an epic journey across America to recover it, and, who knows, maybe even score.
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Americana Movie Month: "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" Review

-- Rating: PG-13
Length: 81 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 20, 1996
Directed by: Mike Judge, Mike de Seve, Yvette Kaplan, Brian Mulroney
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Comedy

Creator Mike Judge set off a firestorm of controversy when he introduced the world to his animated characters Beavis and Butt-Head. The television show, which originally ran on MTV late at night, featured two high school students who loved heavy metal and hard rock music and rarely went outside. The show drew ire because of the catchphrase, "Fire! Fire!" and for its use of so-called satanic music. When Judge decided to make a full-length feature film starring the same characters, no one quite knew exactly what to expect.

"Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" takes the characters outside and across the country, showing fans another side of the animated duo. When they discover that someone stole their television set, they embark on a cross-country trip. After meeting a man who asks the duo to kill his wife, they chase after her. While on their journey, they find that they accidentally stumbled across a nuclear weapon that has enough power to wipe out the entire country. This leads to a humorous adventure that lets the duo interact with regular Americans and even the President of the United States.

One of the best moments in the film comes when the two arrive home from school to find their television is gone. The TV is the only thing that gets them through the day, and they don't know how to function without it. As the characters glance from the empty spot where the television usually sits to a broken window nearby to the footsteps leading away from the house, it's clear that they don't know what to do next. That one moment will elicit laughs from long-time fans and newcomers alike.

"Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" shows that the animated TV characters can make the transition to the big screen. Fans of the series will get a kick out of the opening scenes, which show the two watching their favorite music videos, snacking, and looking for hot women on television. Though this is the plot of many of the TV show episodes, it isn't enough to fill out a feature-length film. Judge brilliantly introduced a plot that makes sense, given the duo's lack of interest in anything outside the home, and helps the characters shine.

The success of the film really comes down to the voice work of Judge. As both Beavis and Butt-Head, he gives each character his own personality, but viewers will also understand that the two boys are incredibly similar and couldn't exist without the other. Judge also turns up throughout the film, playing new and beloved characters like Principal McVicker, Tom Anderson, and Mr. Van Drissen.

Judge was also smart enough to bring in some talented actors to portray other characters in the film. Bruce Willis ("Die Hard") plays Muddy Grimes, while his then wife Demi Moore ("A Few Good Men") plays his on-screen wife Dallas Grimes. Cloris Leachman ("Raising Hope") and Robert Stack ("Unsolved Mysteries") also make appearances in the film.

"Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" is a film meant for fans of the show, but it also does an adequate job of introducing new fans to this beloved duo. By opening up the world to the show, Judge shows that there's a lot that viewers don't know about the teenagers. While the middle part of the film tends to feel a little long at times, the film has a solid beginning and an ending that wraps up the film in a successful way.

Some of the top moments in the film occur when Beavis and Butt-Head get confused by ordinary things. When Muddy asks the men to "do" his wife, they think he wants them to do something different from killing her. Then, when the duo run into a series of ATF agents, they're more concerned with poking fun at the men and telling puns than they are with what happens around them. Some viewers might find themselves screaming at the television, but it's all in good fun.

Beavis and Butt-Head are two truly entertaining characters. They almost seem to serve as a commentary on what teenagers of the era were like: more focused on having fun and doing what they wanted instead of doing what their teachers, principal, and society said they should do. The two characters areentertaining and humorous, and the film provides enough laughs to keep any viewer amused. While "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America" isn't a serious film or one that the Academy Awards recognized, it's still as funny and interesting today as it was when Judge created it in the 1990s.

Rating 3 out of 5