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Leave It to 'Beavis'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 20, 1996

A movie version of the brain-dead exploits of MTV's Beavis and Butt-head was inevitable. But the good news is: "Beavis and Butt-head Do America" takes the spirit of their late night TV show and flies with it.

For those who don't watch cable television around midnight, Beavis and Butt-head are a pair of cartoon characters who spend most of their waking hours in front of the TV. Butt-head, the slightly smarter one of the two (although the difference is almost imperceptible), wears an AC/DC T-shirt and sports braces on his teeth. Beavis, who seems to have every insidious emotional handicap, from attention deficit disorder to outright perversion, wears a Metallica T-shirt and is literally addicted to television.

These blissfully ignorant teenagers, who rely on music videos for their world view and chuckle at dirty words, dream about scoring with chicks. But as with that other frustrated cartoon character, Wile E. Coyote, they never get their bird. They represent the geeky, hormone-infused teen id unleashed -- or is that unplugged? They are the middle-class couch potato kids from hell and, thanks to their creator, Mike Judge, who writes and performs the voices for both characters, they're very funny.

The movie starts at comic speed, with Butt-head dreaming he's a King Kong-size teenager, terrorizing citizens, batting helicopters and looking for really little chicks in the windows. Butt-head wakes up from this reverie to a very big problem. The television, their orb, their giver of life, is missing. Butt-head looks at the smashed window before him, a crowbar lying on the floor, two sets of dirty footprints leading up to where the TV was, then leading out the door. His brain tries to understand what happened.

"Uuuuuuh," he says, straining to read these obvious clues. Once again, he studies the window, the crowbar, the footprints. "Uuuuuuh," he says. He repeats this procedure several times until the penny finally drops.

"I just figured it out," he tells Beavis. "This sucks. This sucks more than anything has sucked before."

On the quest for their missing TV, Beavis and Butt-head bump into a sleazy, hard-drinking lowlife called Muddy, who commissions them to kill or "do" his wife. Naturally, Beavis and Butt-head completely misunderstand what Muddy's talking about. Excited at the prospect of their first sexual encounter (and getting paid for it!), they stumble through a wonderfully convoluted chain of episodes that takes them all over the country, including the Nevada desert and (heh heh heh!) Butte and Bald Knob.

When Muddy's tough-as-leather moll inserts a small-but-deadly virus bomb in Beavis's pants, the teenagers unwittingly become the most wanted men in America. They're pursued relentlessly by an ATF agent (voiced by Robert Stack), who demands "complete cavity searches" first and asks questions later.

Beavis and Butt-head almost destroy a plane. They unleash the waters of the Hoover Dam. They cause the biggest highway pileup in the nation's history. And here's a special treat for B&B fans: Beavis does his Cornholio act repeatedly. "I am Cornholio, " he shrieks. "Are you threatening me!!???"

Of course, they also run into regular supporting characters from the show, including the buffoonish school principal who expels them; the touchy-feely teacher who wears a ban-the-bomb sign, talks about feelings and strums a dippy guitar; and Anderson, their slow-on-the-uptake, southern-accented neighbor who's the constant recipient of the teenagers' pranks.

It's practically impossible to quote the jokes of this movie in a family newspaper. What makes B&B funny -- as opposed to just plain scary -- is the way they reflect a conscientious parent's worst nightmare, how they embody our trashy media culture and, on a less pretentious level, the two characters' hilarious puerility. This movie -- guaranteed -- will cause guffaws and hoots among its core audiences. And for those with the right sense of appreciation (an irredeemably juvenile mind), it's going to provide the kind of riotous release they just don't get in adult life.

BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD DO AMERICA (PG-13) -- Contains overt sexual allusions and profanity.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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