Netflix’s new animated adult comedy from comedian Nick Kroll is not for the faint of heart.
With a tagline like “coming of age all over the place,” did you have any doubt?
Despite the show’s constant crude humor, Big Mouth is still wildly entertaining, original, and even heartfelt.
The series follows a group of friends attempting to survive the minefield that is middle school: first relationships, bullying, and, of course, puberty.
And not to give anyone the wrong idea, the honest summary of this program is that it is about a bunch of young kids going through puberty and discovering their bodies in the most uncomfortable and awkwardly relatable ways.
Nick Kroll, known for his roles on The League and in his own Comedy Central sketch show The Kroll Show, voices the prepubescent Nick, who just wants to hang out with his friends and finally hit puberty.
The audience follows Nick and his much more interesting friends and family. Nick’s entourage including his nerdy, terrified, and puberty-stricken best friend Andrew (John Mulaney), the headstrong, mature Jessi (Jessi Glaser), magician and certified creep Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), and the awkward, walking encyclopedia Missy (Jenny Slate).
As his friends all experience the effects of puberty, Nick turns to his smothering, way too open parents (Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph), the ghost of deceased jazz singer Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele) hanging in the attic of his house, and the occasional run-in with the Hormone Monster (Kroll).
Considering the series is written and created by Kroll, Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy), and writing partners Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett (Little Manhattan, Journey to the Center of the Earth), the series is a mixed bag, but mostly impressive one, nonetheless.
Obviously, there is a lot happening as the show progresses multiple storylines which are taking place within each episode.
Despite this, some plots last much longer than they should; the interesting bits are left as merely side notes or stretched until the end of the season.
Of course, the show is also incredibly crude and often uncomfortable, which is intentional.
An audience member may love the program and watch every episode in one day, but I guarantee some viewers will still have to cringe at least once per episode. In fact, that squirming in your seat is exactly the reactions Kroll and company are hoping to get.
If someone cannot bear to stomach the gross-out, and blunt body humor, this is not the program for him/her.
Also, if someone is easily made queasy by young characters with adult voices saying very adult things, it might be best to avoid this show.
But that’s not to say that Big Mouth is completely appalling, much of the experiences of the characters are all too real.
The horror and delight of growing up happens to everyone, and seeing it play out hilariously can be a cathartic experience of remembering those days while at the same time, thanking all higher beings that they are over.
The medley of writers also succeed in crafting a coming of age tale that truly stands out (props to how weird it’s not afraid to get.)
Much of the charm of the show comes from its wacky characters and jokes that are laugh-out-loud worthy.
Of course, there has been a plethora of movies and television shows about growing up, but none of them feature characters of this sort. With being harassed by the crude, bad influence of the Hormone Monster (or Monstress), receiving advice from a deceased, philandering jazz singer, impromptu musical numbers about discovering one’s sexuality and how life is pointless, and many more instances of idiosyncrasies that make the show unique.
While the jokes can be crude, they are also surprisingly and delightfully clever.
This isn’t all genitalia jokes and middle school humor; there are still some excellent plot points and humor that is not only mature, but also very well written.
For a small, strange animated series, the cast is surprisingly star-studded and all the actors are strategically casted so that it seems this was a passion project for all involved.
Kroll, who voices all three characters of the titular Nick, the Hormone Monster, and Coach Steve, is excellent in all aspects.
He manages to make the overbearing Hormone Monster fun to watch as well as he creates a sympathetic character in the weird, socially awkward Coach Steve.
Unsurprisingly, supporting characters Mulaney, Mantzoukas and Peele are also excellent, and have great comedic timing.
The biggest standout characters throughout episodes are Rudolph, Armisen, and Glaser.
Rudolph and Armisen are hilarious and uncomfortable as Nick’s parents, making some of their scenes the most memorable.
Glaser, one of the least known cast members, is wonderful as the most interesting character of Jessi. She’s independent and confident, while also dealing with the most stressful events in a young girl’s life.
Glaser can also be quick and funny in one moment, and heartbreaking in the next. The entire cast is excellent, and elevates the program even more.
Finally, the animation behind Big Mouth is nicely done and works well with the tone of the show.
Animation director Mike Roush (Turbo FAST) makes smooth, visually interesting animations, but still gives everything a bit of a messy edge.
The characters are not perfect and much of the animation is unrefined and sometimes even ugly looking. Ultimately,
It works efficiently with the crude nature of the series, and it still makes intriguing visual choices that create some memorable shots.