Beavis and Butt-Head have always been the dirtier, animated cousins to Bill & Ted. They’re two metal enthusiasts, dim-witted losers who find real comfort in each other’s company. There are, of course, other easy similarities: The blond and brunette pairing and their never-ending search for babes. But never has the kindred spirits shared by these duos been more felt than in creator-director Mike Judge’s time-travel movie “Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe.”
Arriving over 25 years after “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America,” the sequel initially takes place in 1998. Beavis and Butthead (both voiced by Judge) are attending the Highland High School Science Fair whereby they hear the winner gets a trip to NASA space camp. In a bid for the award, Butt-Head uses the Power Kick 3000 to kick Beavis in the crotch as an experiment of his fortitude. But the plan backfires, literally. Beavis is sent careening through the air. His high-pitch screams cause a fire, destroying the science fair and landing the pair in court. Instead of sentencing them to prison, however, the lenient judge (voiced by Chi McBride) sends them to eight weeks of NASA space camp in the hopes of saving these delinquents by unlocking their hidden “potential.”
In the early going, we get Judge’s familiar, but endearing potty humor: Beavis and Butt-Head arrive at the Johnson Space Center, and the latter immediately quips, “Heh, heh. Johnson.” The astronauts at mission control are testing docking with the Mir Space Station, and you guessed it, the docking arm’s phallic imagery and the corresponding opening produces sexual sensations in the pair. They spend hours pushing the tube into the metallic orifice, to the point of the astronauts mistaking them for savants and taking them in space as a PR grab (two at-risk youths saved by NASA!). They agree to go only because an astronaut, Serena Ryan (voiced by Andrea Savage) asks them if they want to “do” it (it being docking with Mir).
As usual, the two find themselves in trouble because their horniness causes them to misunderstand the situation as an opportunity to score, and the adults around them are too aloof to understand how idiotic they are. That misreading causes the pair to wreck the shuttle and be kicked out into space by Serena where they come upon a black hole that sends them into the future, into 2022.
While most sequels invite comfort through the familiar, this film’s best moment arrives through Judge grappling with his signature humor in a modern world. The pair learn what a smartphone is and the spending power it holds; in an ode to Spike Jonze’s “Her,” Beavis falls in love with Siri (voiced by Susan Bennett). The two numbskulls even stumble into a gender studies class (taught by a professor voiced by Tig Notaro) where they mislearn white privilege as a license to do whatever they want (which is ironic because the best friends have always done whatever they wanted). Each bit is more ingenious than the last, allowing for new kinds of laughs in a present-day milieu. It’s a shame then that Judge becomes impatient and forgoes the modern storyline, with a safe tonal return as the pair struggle to get back to the 1990s.
It also doesn’t help that the subplots mostly fizzle. Serena, for instance, is running for reelection as Governor of Texas, and is worried Beavis and Butt-Head will reveal how she tried to murder them. The government thinks Beavis and Butt-Head are aliens ripe for dissection. And alternate versions of the pair, known as Smart Beavis and Smart Butt-Head arrive from another dimension (this storyline makes the sequel another attempt this year at multiverse madness) to get the two halfwits to step through a portal back to their own time before their presence causes the universe to collapse. While the other subplots spin their wheels toward nothingness, the latter concerning the different versions of them recalls “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” which also inserted two foolhardy pleasure seekers into a modern landscape.