You don’t already have to be a fan to like Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. But you probably have to be a fan to be disappointed by it. In Mike Judge’s feature-length version of his ingeniously daft MTV cartoon, our boys discover that their most precious possession — their TV set — has been stolen. ”This sucks more than anything has sucked before!” declares an unusually ruminative Butt-head. Those in the audience may agree, since it means that Beavis and Butt-head, hapless teenage wastrels who experience every moment of their lives as if they were watching it on television, can no longer engage in the activity they do best. No, I’m not talking about that activity. I’m speaking of their hilarious reptile-brained critiques of music videos, in which they offer observation so exquisitely myopic, so accurate in their very stuntedness, that they seem to be reflecting the vacant sensational soul of MTV right back at it. The video segments aren’t simply the best part of Beavis and Butt-head; they break up the episodes into tasty channel-zapped fragments. But in Beavis and Butt-head Do America, we’re stuck with the damned story, with continuity. It made me realize that when it comes to this particular cartoon, witty as it often is, I frequently have an even shorter attention span than our heroes.
Wandering into the motel room of a drunken lout, Beavis and Butt-head are mistaken for hitmen and hired to ”do” (that is, kill) his sex-bomb ex-wife. Interpreting ”do” in a different way, they gleefully take the assignment. There follows a warped variation on North by Northwest, as the two leap on a plane to Las Vegas and end up getting chased around the country, from Hoover Dam to the desert to Washington, D.C. Scene for scene, the duo are in good form. Butt-head, the more socialized of the pair, snuffles like a warthog when he thinks he’s about to ”score.” Beavis, his eyebrows electric wires of incipient dementia, slips into the priest’s side of a confessional and orders a guilty adulterer to beat himself. The scene in which they disco dance to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ”Love Rollercoaster” is good psychotic fun, and there’s a hilarious running gag featuring a square-jawed government agent who’s obsessed with giving everyone a ”full cavity [i.e., rectal] search.” When it comes to comedy, Mike Judge literally is a butt-head. Beavis and Butt-head Do America has its share of chuckles, yet this is one case where more turns out to be less. By the end, when Beavis, high on stimulants, wanders around the White House for about 20 minutes nattering in the foreign-guru accent of his anally obsessed alter ego, Cornholio, I thought: enough already. Give the boys back their television. B-