Disgusting, extreme, rude and downright bizarre, Big Mouth nails its subject matter. Set in the current day suburbs of New York, the show details the exceedingly mortifying and awkward but ultimately inescapable journey that is puberty for a group of seventh graders (so, year 8).
Mainly we focus on best buds Andrew and Nick, based on series creator’s Nick Kroll (The League) and Andrew Goldberg’s teenage selves. Andrew (voiced by John Mulaney) is an earnest young man who harbours a crush for token smart girl in class Missy, can’t go more than a few hours without masturbating and thinks he might also be gay (and that’s just the first few episodes).
“The horribly awkward ordeal that is having a girlfriend/boyfriend”
Meanwhile Nick (Nick Kroll) has his own problems, after catching a glimpse of his friends’ larger, let’s say, machinery, his worried he’s not progressing as quickly as everybody else. At the same time, after hooking up with straight talking friend Jessi, he has to deal with the horribly awkward ordeal that is having a girlfriend/boyfriend when you’re 12 and suddenly for some reason have no idea how to talk to someone you’ve known for years.
“Laughing at something makes it immediately less daunting”
Big Mouth’s main draw, beyond its relatability, is its potential to make what can be a very strange and even scary time for young people a little bit more, well funny and enjoyable. The old credence that laughing at something makes it immediately less daunting is here, right on the money.
Big Mouth doesn’t bother to mask the inherent explicitness of puberty but instead, celebrates it through humour. This is achieved chiefly through a pair of foul mouthed spiritual guides, “Hormone Monsters”, two large creatures that follow Andrew and Jessi around and are only visible to them. Often appearing when they are aroused or embarrassed (so all the time), the creatures act as physical manifestations of pubescence and the confusing and scary urges that come with it.
“Touches on pretty much every major event of the adolescent experience”
The show touches on pretty much every major event of the adolescent experience; masturbation, periods, questioning one’s sexuality, porn, and even at one-point a B story in which one of the characters talks to and has sex with his pillow.
At times this format does seem a little cliché. However, what stops Big Mouth from being just simply an animated High School comedy is simply how funny it is. With the sharp, snappy, self-aware dialogue that we’ve come to expect from TV’s current wealth of adult animated comedies, the show keeps up a rapid comic style, with one of the best jokes being a gag in which every male character’s head literally explodes when another tells them that “girls get horny too” including the class’ middle aged PE teacher Coach Steve (also voiced by Kroll).
A lonely guy who constantly brings up to everyone the fact he can’t read, Steve has some of the best lines, at one point breaking the fourth wall to explain directly to the audience his disappointment in not being included in a rude drawing one student made about the teachers.
“Employs, quiet successfully, surreal humour”
Big Mouth also employs, quiet successfully, surreal humour at times too, with the ghost of a deceased Jazz Legend acting as Nick’s mentor and confidant, as well as plenty of talking bugs, bath mats, pillows and even genitals. The show also has its poignant moments as it explores the anxieties as well as often complex and erratic emotionality adolescence can bring.
Despite its clever writing, Big Mouth’s explicit and often vivid portrayal of puberty via the platform of animation could prove too much for some viewers, a fact the creators themselves acknowledge and mock within-the-show. Similarly, the animation style itself may also polarize. The bulging eyes and eponymous “big mouths” of the characters are not ultimately the most aesthetically pleasing of the animated canon, yet arguably do aptly reflect the bodily anxiety one goes through at that age.
A hilarious and clever newcomer to the animated comedy craze, Big Mouth’s first season follows in the footsteps of Rick and Morty and BoJack Horseman as animation that combines humour with realistic human emotions and anxieties to create something effortlessly entertaining whilst unabashedly relatable at the same time.
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