This Big Mouth review contains spoilers.
Big Mouth Season 1
“Everything’s embarrassing. Everything is so embarrassing.”
After a few television series struck gold by centering their shows around rich men experiencing mid-life crises, it feels like that’s becoming the norm with programming. That’s not to say that this concept doesn’t work, but it makes something that’s set completely on the other side of the spectrum shine that much brighter.
If I were trying to sell this show to someone in a few words, I’d say, “It’s basically ‘Oh, Hello Babies.’” If that means something to you, you’re probably going to love the hell out of this show. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney lead the pack here, as many talents from the alternative comedy scene take themselves back to the early years of being a teenager. Coming from Kroll and Andrew Goldberg (Family Guy), Big Mouth follows the same conversational rhythms of Oh, Hello, as Andrew (Mulaney) and Nick (Kroll) lose themselves in banter that navigates through kid culture and their ever-raging hormones.
One of the best things about the series is how it does such an effective job at authentically tapping into that experience of being a seventh grader again. The season tackles a number of smart, genuine storylines that children have to deal with, like school dances, first kisses, sleepovers, seeing a friend’s penis, periods, or defining if “you’re a couple.” Big Mouth goes one step further here by contrasting these authentic moments from youth with an outlandish, elastic reality. Children may be learning life lessons here, but crazy stuff like the Statue of Liberty handing out feminine advice, children getting sucked into Sylvester Stallone’s amateur porn, and a masturbation pillow developing feelings for its owner and wanting to be more than just a “fling” still go down. Not to mention, the Ghost of Duke Ellington and a Hormone Monster are also some of the supporting characters of this unique world.
The Hormone Monster, Maurice, is really a stroke of genius for this show (a pun which Maurice would love). Maurice is essentially a sexualized version of Aladdin’s Genie. He’s perpetually horny and lewd in the best possible way, yet he has an excuse—he’s a Hormone Monster—so it doesn’t play as gratuitous. He’s disgusting, but so were all of we when the hormones first started to flow. Also, Jessie’s Hormone Monstress, Connie, is a great evolution of the gag and Maya Rudolph owns the role in the same way that Nick Kroll does Maurice.
These characters may feel a little reminiscent of American Dad’s Roger at times, but they work best when they’re helping these kids with their sexuality rather than recklessly having their way with inanimate objects. It’s also smart to actually turn Maurice and Connie into supporting characters rather than just a one-off joke for an episode.
Big Mouth also succeeds in being a deeply sweet show, in spite of the crude exterior. It’s the series’ way of highlighting the many weird shapes and sizes that young love can come in. Characters can break out into a song about how “Life is a Fucked Up Mess,” yet still have the chipper veneer of children. The series even opens up the conversation towards more serious topics, like consent and sexual abuse…albeit using a beautiful Seinfeld gag to dig deeper into the issue. In this sense, Andrew Goldberg’s Family Guy-like cutaway sensibilities are definitely felt at times, but Big Mouth does a good job at not going overboard in that department.
Weirdly enough, this combination of styles ends up creating an almost Bobby’s World sort of approach to the world and life lessons. Only if Bobby’s World was much more jaded and adult. I also felt many pangs of the tone and absurdity present in Mitch Hurwitz’s Sit Down, Shut Up, which is high praise in my opinion. At many times Big Mouth is not only aware that it’s a television show, but it addresses the fact head on. It’s a show that doesn’t shy away from getting meta, but with this series, it’s the sort of thing where an episode won’t end up all being a dream, it’ll end up all being a wet dream. That’s this show’s wheelhouse.
All of this amounts to Big Mouth being very easy to watch. It’s fun and harmless, and if you were a child watching this, it might actually open your eyes in some exciting ways. It manages to be weirdly poignant and could end up teaching younger children a few things, even if it’s clearly not meant to be an educational program. Big Mouth also isn’t afraid to go to dark and honest places with its storytelling. It’s not like the series ever gets to Rick and Morty or BoJack Horseman levels of darkness, but it does do a nice job at flexing that muscle. Dialogue like, “Love dies. Let’s bury the body together,” hits especially hard, even more so when it’s coming out of a seventh grader.
Another major selling point here is that the voice talent assembled for Big Mouth is pretty perfect and no character is wasted. Mulaney and Kroll feel like they’re having so much fun in these juvenile roles. The show’s tertiary characters are also given focus in very interesting ways. These inconsequential people are shown to have weird, sad lives that get breezed past and never addressed again. It’s a style that helps contribute to the show’s frenetic pacing and how it feels like the comedy never lets up.
There is no shortage of animated series out there, but Big Mouth goes for something a little different and succeeds. Furthermore, the series is typically episodic in nature, but doesn’t make this a firm rule. There are plenty of nice callbacks, interwoven stories, and a bit of a soft arc that grows over the course of the season’s ten episodes. That sort of larger scope isn’t exactly necessary, but it does provide a nice roundness to everything and makes this all feel a little more polished. Add to that some animation that’s flat-out gorgeous and inspired voice work with smart casting decisions behind them and this all points to being a winner. All of these elements will only refine themselves and grow stronger as the series continues.
This also feels like one of the few series where actually having the characters age would be beneficial to the storytelling. That’s not to say each season has to chronicle a new year, but seeing these awkward kids mature and go through the wealth of problems that accompany that would make for great content for the series to eventually explore. Regardless of the direction that any possible future seasons may go, Big Mouth comes in strong and delivers an impressive debut season. May this thing spread as quickly as a seventh grade rumor and there be many more years to come.
Big Mouth’s entire first season is available to stream, September 29th on Netflix. This review is based on all ten half-hour episodes from Big Mouth’s first season.