Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996)
Directed by Mike Judge
With visions of Idiocracy dancing in our American heads, it’s best we evaluate Mike Judge as an underrated mainstream satirist. Over eight seasons, Beavis and Butt-Head cynically and endearingly exaggerated the qualifiers leveled at its MTV audience: lazy, stupid, hungry for junk, yet fully functional. They could fail school, barely hold a job, throw trash cans at each other, and still live another day to eat nachos and watch television. Alternately dead-pan and brashly crude, Judge’s comedy explores various drafts of the American Dream, be it in King of the Hill‘s Texas suburbs, Office Space‘s drab cubicles and tacky eateries, or Silicon Valley‘s tech bubble. For Beavis and Butt-Head, they’re living their own American Dream, even if they’re too oblivious to know it. The Easy Rider vibe of their sole feature’s poster would be lost on them.
When Beavis and Butt-Head “do America,” they expose how cluelessness and apathy aren’t unique to them. Propelled by the burglary of their beloved television (which, hilariously, takes some time to figure out), the duo become embroiled in a cross-country manhunt involving an drunk ex-con (Bruce Willis), his estranged wife (Demi Moore), a staunch CIA agent (Robert Stack), and a bioterrorist unit (cue the trademark nasal giggles). Judge—continuing his vocal duties as Beavis, Butt-Head, and most of the supporting characters—keeps the pace and look of a typical episode, even managing to fit in a, uh, music video directed by Rob Zombie. As the boys venture, no target is safe from a good dumb joke, be it a beloved landmark or government ops; there are few moments in 90s comedies more satisfying than Robert Stack ordering a cavity search: “Don’t stop ’til you reach the back of his teeth.” Max Kyburz (December 15, 20, 8pm at Anthology Film Archives)