After seeing the success of animated adult comedies Ricky and Morty (Cartoon Network) and BoJack Horseman (Netflix), Netflix ups the ante with BIG MOUTH, the very adult comedy about middle school kids.
Written, produced, and voiced by comedian, Nick Kroll, BIG MOUTH provides an over-the-top yet still honest portrayal of 7th-grade students wrestling with puberty, whether wanting to go through it or fighting to survive it. Following the lives of best friends Nick (Kroll) and Andrew (voiced by John Mulaney but named after co-creator, Andrew Goldberg, who grew up as a childhood best friend of Kroll) and their inner circle, Kroll is joined by an outstanding group of comedians including Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Jordan Peele to name just a few.
Everyone who has lived through the awkward years of middle school where voices start cracking, hairs start growing in new places, and a new and different awareness of the opposite (or same) sex begins will relate to this series. Characters are introduced to masturbation and porn, attend their first high school party and drink, experience their first kiss, what it feels like to fall in love and poor timing in getting their first period. There’s a good chance that many people have stopped reading at this point because the thought of a cartoon depicting boy’s penises, a young girl’s smiling vagina, and children masturbating is simply too much. Yes, it’s a lot to absorb, but it’s a series that will bring back many good and perhaps less-than-desired memories from our younger days and allow us to laugh and be thankful that we made it through relatively unscathed.
With the first two episodes titled “Ejaculation” and “Everybody Bleeds” and a poster with the tagline “COMING OF AGE ALL OVER THE PLACE”, it’s safe to say that this series is not meant to serve as sex education for those 10-14 nor is it appropriate for younger high school students. Yet, it’s Netflix, and no doubt, middle schoolers and high schoolers alike will find and watch a series that makes South Park look like Sesame Street. Despite the at-times crude approach and BIG MOUTH not being suitable for children 10-15, it’s likely that those in that age group already have experienced or talked with their friends about what occurs in the animated series. And BIG MOUTH provides a more realistic approach to important childhood events than South Park does for elementary school.
BIG MOUTH is at its funniest when the Hormone Monster (Kroll) is baiting Andrew. Imagine the Hormone Monster as the rage-filled devil on your shoulder, but one you cannot control because your testosterone is out of control. Rudolph’s Hormone Monstress provides a bit more lady-like advice to the girls going through puberty including introducing Jessi (Jessi Klein) to her vagina. The musical numbers highlight the creativity of its strong writing team and the writers are equal-opportunity offenders whether taking on race, ethnicity, or gender.
As with all comedy series, BIG MOUTH has room for growth. The Ghost of Duke Ellington (Peele) whom Nick and Andrew go to for advice fails to elicit many laughs and feels out of place in this otherwise realistic portrayal of middle school. Coach Steve, the adult dolt in the series, is more annoying than amusing. And it is an odd casting decision to have white comedian Jenny Slate voice an African-American character (Missy); there’s certainly a bevy of African-American comedians who could voice this part.
Two things guaranteed are that BIG MOUTH will elicit many laughs throughout its 10-episode arc and viewers will struggle to ever look at a pillow the same again.