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It's all that you came to expect -- and not much more

Beavis and Butt-head Do America

Written and directed by Mike Judge.

Voices by Mike Judge, Robert Stack, and Cloris Leachman.

By Scott C. Deskin
Staff Reporter

Right now, MTV's film production wing must be laughing all the way to the bank. Its latest project, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, is a triumphant capstone to its film ventures for 1996, canceling out the bomb Joe's Apartment, a comedy about singing cockroaches. Though tantamount to that earlier film in bad taste (maybe), the film version of Beavis and Butt-head was sure to make money anyway (despite its reported 18-million dollar budget): The eponymous animated co-stars are America's current symbols of underachievement and cultural disaffection, more so than Bart Simpson ever was just a few short years ago.

Writer-director-vocalist Mike Judge brings the pubescent nitwits to the big screen to milk the cash cow for all its worth before their popularity wanes. To his credit, Judge doesn't water down the er charms of the duo. They're still fixated on watching TV, getting laid, and marvelling at the wonders of modern technology (like automatic-flushing urinals in one incomparable scene from the film). Obviously, Judge isn't catering to the whims of a broad movie-going public. With Beavis and Butt-head, there are only two options: You either love 'em or you hate 'em.

Those familiar with the episodic TV series may wonder how B & B can be expanded to a feature-length format (in this film, that means about 85 minutes). For non-fans, the exploits probably get old pretty quickly, I'm sure. But otherwise, the film holds up pretty well with its simple plot moving our heroes across the country with relative aplomb. When B & B's television set is stolen, they conduct a search all around their hometown of Highland: Along the way, they run into their long-suffering neighbor, World War II veteran and retiree Tom Anderson, as well as the ineffectual Principal McDikker at the high school (both characters return later in the film when they cross paths with B & B, often with catastrophic consequences).

When they wander into a roadside motel, drawn by the lure of the neon sign advertising TVs, they accidentally meet up with an unsavory outlaw who mistakes the two for hitmen. He gives them the instructions for "doing" his wife in Las Vegas, which sends the wrong message to B & B, who see the situation as their chance to finally score. They meet up with the woman in Vegas, who catches on to the whole scheme and hoodwinks the boys into unwittingly (how else?) smuggling a top-secret biological weapon to Washington, D.C. It's ridiculous but no less unbelievable than the plot of Eraser, for instance.

Most of the film is devoted to B & B's "doing" of America. This involves their hitching a ride with a busload of nuns, crawling through the desert of the American southwest (where they confront death and stumble upon a key to their past), and the emergence of Beavis' stimulant-induced alter ego, Cornholio. Hot on their trail is an FBI man (voice of Robert Stack) who's obsessed with giving his suspects "full cavity searches," no doubt a reflection of Judge's built-in distaste for authority figures.

Sure, it's mindless fun, the cinematic equivalent of junk food: As long as you don't make a steady diet of it, you're OK. As I said before, fans will enjoy this film the most, while many other people will decry that Beavis and Butt-head Do America is a waste of celluloid. If you're like me, you'll just enjoy the film on its basest levels, and when the victorious Beavis and Butt-head are congratulated by President Clinton himself at the end, you'll suppress the urge to ask (as Tom Anderson might), "What the hell was that all about?"