Release Date(s)1996 (December 7, 2021)
Studio(s)MTV Productions/Geffen Productions (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was the natural extension of what was, at the time, a very successful animated TV show. Mike Judge’s bad boys from Highland had decimated the MTV landscape and worked their way into popular culture by pissing off a lot of parents and getting the blame for much of what was “wrong” with youth culture (nothing was). Though the show was hugely popular with teenagers, adults seemed to almost be ashamed to admit that they were into it as well. When the film opened in December of 1996, briefly becoming the biggest December opening in history, it was clear that more than just teenagers were tuning in for these perverted, music video-watching losers who buck at authority and want nothing more than to score.
After the titular twosome wake up to find that their precious TV has been stolen, they set out on a mission to find it. This leads them to Muddy (Bruce Willis), a low-life criminal with a chip on his shoulder over his ex-wife Dallas (Demi Moore). Inadvertently hired to kill her (though they believe they’ve been hired to sleep with her), they get on a plane for Las Vegas. Along their route, they repeatedly run into an old lady (Cloris Leachman) who’s on vacation with her husband. After landing in Vegas and finding Dallas, she seduces them into believing she’ll actually do what they want, but not until they meet her in Washington. When their backs are turned, she plans a deadly device on them that, if broken, will kill everyone in their path. The ATF shows up, led by agents special agents Flemming (Robert Stack) and Bork (Greg Kinnear), who follow Beavis and Butt-Head to Washington, though they continue to elude the authorities unwittingly with their constant hijinks, attempts to score, and even running into their birth father (David Letterman).
Seeing this film again is definitely one of those cases of seeing something that you enjoyed quite a bit as a young teenager and you wonder how much you’ll still appreciate it as an adult. The truth is, it’s still a fun movie, but it may not be quite as funny as it was in 1996. Unless you’re of a certain age, it’s not a laugh-out-loud kind of experience, more of an enjoyable throwback. It’s made well enough that you don’t necessarily have to have an overwhelming familiarity with Beavis and Butt-Head. Mike Judge and his crew were wise enough to make sure that the film had a working story, had moments that would tie together, and never felt overburdened with jokes. The additions of Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Robert Stack add nice comedic flavor to the mix, and the animation is surprisingly some of the best of the era, including the extended Beavis hallucination sequence when the boys are on the verge of dying in the desert. To be succinct, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is just silly enough and takes itself seriously enough that it still works well years later, but it may be more hysterical if you’re in your teens.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was produced traditionally with cel animation and minor CGI additions. Cinematographer David J. Miller oversaw the look of the film, which was finished photochemically on 35 mm film, and presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Paramount Pictures brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time for the film’s 25th anniversary. It’s worth noting that the film was given a much higher budget than the show, and as such, improvements to the look of the show’s animation were made. Background characters had more movement, vistas were wider with more detail, and lines around the characters were much crisper and less shaky. Paramount’s high definition presentation definitely improves this, recreating the look of the film without any heavy-handed enhancements. It looks like animation on film, the grit and grain, and the flaws inherent in cel-drawn animation on full display. Speckling and uneven colors are frequent, meaning that the original animation is intact without any digital improvements. Lines around characters are crisp, detail is boosted, and the color palette is rich with varied hues, most especially during scenes that take place in Las Vegas, as well as the hallucination scene. Blacks are deep with good contrast and the image is stable. All in all, everything appears natural and true to its source.
The audio is provided in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French 2.0 Dolby Digital with optional subtitles in English, English SDH, and French. The 5.1 experience is a good one with frequent uses of the surround channels, especially in the opening sequence in which Butt-Head is hundreds of feet tall and lays waste to a city as thousands of people run from him. This section really shows off the capabilities of the low end as well. The remainder of the mix is mostly restrained aside from occasional panning and atmospheric activity. Dialogue exchanges are discernible and the score and song selection are given plenty of amplitude.
All of the extras from the Special Collector’s Edition DVD release of the film have been carried over, and all are presented in SD:
- Audio Commentary with Mike Judge and Yvette Kaplan
- The Big Picture (22:42)
- We’re Gonna Score!: Scoring Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (10:57)
- The Smackdown (2:33)
- MTV News Celebrity Shorts: Jennifer Tilly (1:08)
- MTV News Celebrity Shorts: Steve Buscemi (1:38)
- MTV News Celebrity Shorts: Snoop Dogg (:48)
- Teaser Trailer #1 (:35)
- Teaser Trailer #2 (:46)
- TV Spot #1 – Action: Mike Judge Directing the Boys (:32)
- TV Spot #2 – Kick: Mike Judge Directing the Boys (:47)
- TV Spot #3 – Loss: Mike Judge Directing the Boys (:47)
- TV Spot #4 – Stunt: Mike Judge Directing the Boys (:32)
- TV Spot #5 – Taken Away (:32)
- TV Spot #6 – Important (:32)
- TV Spot #7 – Biggest Stars (:17)
- TV Spot #8 – Most Wanted (:32)
- TV Spot #9 – Start Running (:17)
- TV Spot #10 – Suit (:32)
- TV Spot #11 – Characters/Alt (:32)
- TV Spot #12 – Your Movie (:17)
The audio commentary (recorded in 2006) featuring director, writer, and actor Mike Judge and animation director Yvette Kaplan is fun and informative. Judge hasn’t seen the film in a while, but that doesn’t stop him from providing valuable information about it. Kaplan laughs along with him at the film and their memories of making it. They discuss the recording sessions with the various actors, occasionally mentioning deleted scenes and ideas that had to be changed or dropped, while providing other great factoids about the production. The commentary is also afforded optional English or French subtitles. The Big Picture delves into the making of the film, speaking to a number of people who worked on it, including Mike Judge. It also features a couple of minor interview snippets with Robert Stack and Cloris Leachman, as well as some of the audio recording sessions. We’re Gonna Score! features an interview with composer John Frizzell about his score for the film, providing neat anecdotes about some of his more amusing contributions. The Smackdown is a strange montage of trimmed down scenes from the film set to two pieces of score. The rest of the extras consist of promotional materials, including humorous MTV snippets with Kurt Loder and various celebrities talking about Beavis and Butt-Head, as well as the film’s two teaser trailers and twelve TV spots. A Digital code is included on a paper insert inside the package.
Good on Paramount for carrying all of this material from the previous DVD over, but surely something new could have been added. There are additional trailers and promos out there since MTV promoted the film quite heavily during its release, but no more of it has been included here.
With a new Beavis and Butt-Head film coming up on the horizon on Paramount Plus, a revisit with the original show and Beavis and Butt-Head Do America is in order. It’s a great high definition upgrade with excellent A/V quality, an entertaining audio commentary, and a nice set of vintage marketing materials to go along with it. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons