Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The release of Star Trek Into Darkness has us fondly remembering other movies based on, or spun-off from, TV shows.
Beavis And Butt-head Do America (1996)
Beavis and Butt-head make unlikely movie stars. Although they debuted in a short film, they are known for television, and they also function primarily as a satirical critique of their own medium, annotating the idiocy of music videos with an endless chorus of grunts, sniggering, and toilet humor. So Mike Judge’s decision to bring them to the big screen in 1996, at the height of their popularity, seemed at once business-savvy and creatively bankrupt. Assuming that the movie wouldn’t include 40 minutes of the boys sneering at hair bands, what exactly was it going to be? Could the few minutes of each episode devoted to their antics at Highland High really support an entire feature?
Clearly aware of these potential objections, Judge begins Beavis And Butt-head Do America by literally robbing the teens of their TV set, thereby forcing them to interact with the world at large. A chance encounter with a lowlife (voice of Bruce Willis) who thinks they’re the hitmen he’s hired to kill his wife (voice of Demi Moore) sends them on a cross-country odyssey, pursued by an ATF agent (voice of Robert Stack) who orders a cavity search on every orifice-equipped entity that crosses his path. But none of that much matters, because the movie’s only real purpose is to ridicule the very notion of an odyssey. Arguably, Beavis and Butt-head are even funnier at length than they are in small doses; the more things they encounter and experiences they have without changing one iota, the more absurd their myopic viewpoint becomes. (That’s also why the nonstop “huh-huh”s work. If they were only occasional, they’d just be annoying; it’s the fact that it never lets up that finally gets to you.)
Whenever he can, Judge tosses in some actual jokes, many of them predicated on familiarity with the characters. (When a guide at a petrified forest asks, “How did this wood get so hard?” the punchline is largely implied.) Mostly, though, he just wants to snicker at the idea of a grand, life-changing series of events. He made a movie about how stupid movies are, which is better than making a stupid movie. To paraphrase Peter in Office Space, it’s not that Judge is lazy. He just doesn’t care.
Availability: DVD but no Blu-ray, rental and purchase from the major digital providers, and streaming on Netflix.
Editor's note: This story originally misidentified Beavis & Butt-head as created for television, but they debuted in a Mike Judge short film. Apologies! And thanks for the correction, @Fair_Dig.