Big Mouth [Netflix, 2017]

A lot of words can be used to describe puberty: Awkward. Gross. Uncomfortable. Hilarious. These also pretty accurately describe the Netflix animated comedy Big Mouth.

The brainchild of comedian Nick Kroll and his childhood friend and Family Guy writer/producer Andrew Goldberg (plus Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett), Big Mouth debuted on Netflix in September 2017 and has already been confirmed for a second season coming (no pun intended*) later this year.

Big Mouth centers on the relationship between Nick (the aforementioned Kroll) and Andrew (superb comedian John Mulaney), and their friends—the eternally horny aspiring magician Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), the smart and cynical Jessi (Jessi Klein), and the endearingly nerdy and slightly naive Missy (Jenny Slate)—as they traverse the rocky terrain between adolescence and puberty.

Surreality and absurdism play a large part in the show, to both good and bad effect. The best of the good is represented by two things: first, the presence of hormone monsters (and a hormone monstress) that speak to the children (and at least one adult), usually giving them bad advice and encouraging them to give in to their weirdest, most depraved thoughts, and second, some of the musical numbers—especially when a sexually confused Andrew sings with the ghost of Freddie Mercury, or when a tampon resembling Michael Stipe sings a parody of Everybody Hurts called Everybody Bleeds. The worst of the bad can be seen in all its glory in Episode 6, Pillow Talk, where Jay goes on an emotional roller coaster with his sex pillow (later involving his bathmat). When the show crosses that line into the utterly absurd it can become a chore to finish (no pun intended*).

Despite the fantastical, ridiculous, and flat-out weird elements that permeate the show, Big Mouth actually manages to make the characters relatable in the way it handles the characters’ emotions and reactions to what’s happening to their bodies. It’s impossible to watch the show and not at some point be reminded of your own stumble toward adulthood in some way, be it wet dreams, accidental and sometimes confusing erections, exploring your nether regions for the first time, or having sexual relations with the severed head of Garrison Keillor.

The cast of Big Mouth is practically a comedy honor roll—scanning the names voicing the show’s many characters, it was easier to pick the names I didn’t recognize rather than the ones I did. Along with the excellent main cast, the show also features the talents of Fred Armisen, Andrew Rannells, Kristen Bell, Jon Hamm, Kirsten Wiig, as well as my two personal favorites: Maya Rudolph is phenomenal as the sassy and nasty hormone monstress, Connie, and Jordan Peele absolutely slays as the ghost of Duke Ellington, who lives in Andrew’s attic and says a plethora of immoral and outlandish things to the boys, as well as giving them generally terrible advice.

With a show this vulgar and gross, it’s definitely going to have its detractors. My friend Eric in California (Hi, Eric!) stated in no uncertain terms that a show featuring ejaculation, menstruation, and masturbation did not appeal to him whatsoever. To that, all I can say is, different strokes for different folks (no pun intended*). With that in mind, if you’d like to see a completely different take on the show, you can read this extremely negative review I found while doing some research to write my own. Ironically, it is far more graphic and detailed than mine, presumably in an attempt to offend anyone who reads it as much as the person who wrote it.

Although it takes jokes too far in places, for the most part Big Mouth is a solid comedy that will elicit steady chuckles and occasional big laughs. Just know you’re in for some depravity—if you expect any less, you’ve got another thing coming (no pun intended*).

 

*j/k all puns intended

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