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The most prevalent way people characterize puberty is as “awkward.” However, as Netflix’s new animated comedy Big Mouth would have you believe, adolescence is also unpleasant.
The series spares no gory detail as it delves into the perilous realm of adolescence with all of its rages, body fluids, and knee-jerk masturbatory tendencies. Big Mouth personifies puberty through opposing “hormone monsters,” with the lecherous Maury (series co-creator Nick Kroll) following meek Andrew (John Mulaney) as he frets his way through his new urges, and curvaceous Connie (Maya Rudolph) tagging along with Jessi (Jessi Klein) to prod her into vicious mood swings.
The show’s ten episodes are all incredibly frivolous, and often outrageous merely for the sake of being ridiculous. Maury, in particular, is a walking, talking id who revels in Netflix’s lack of censorship; no other program I can think of would cast one of its young characters’ closest confidants as the horny ghost of Duke Ellington residing in his attic. At one point, there’s a strange sidebar about Jay, Andrew, and Jessi’s school’s resident hothead, who’s voiced suitably by comedy’s resident hothead Jason Mantzoukas, inadvertently impregnating a pillow.
But what elevates Big Mouth above the sum of its many, many dick jokes is the fact that underlying its raging hormones and frankly nasty humor lurks a hugely empathetic heart.
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For example, Andrew is growing nearly against his will, sporting a patchy mustache while secretly masturbating to dreams of his father’s helper. But Andrew’s best friend Nick (also voiced by Kroll) is still in preadolescence, barely taller than Andrew’s shoulders, missing the sex drive that’s slowly but steadily taking over Andrew’s head, and perplexed as to why his own body is taking so long to catch up. Also, you must try to play this Big Mouth Tv Series Quiz.
When Andrew isn’t lost in his lustful fantasies (not to mention Maury’s encouragement to indulge in every last deranged one), his friendship with Nick is genuinely touching, and a real depiction of how difficult it can be for teens to navigate relationships when they’re growing up at different rates. It doesn’t hurt that Kroll and Mulaney have a natural chemistry as a result of their years of performing together (most notably in the Broadway run of their two-man show Oh, Hello). Fans of the duo will appreciate how they twist their customary roles, with Kroll speaking Nick’s wide-eyed innocence and Mulaney — whose own standup humor is as good-boy pure as it gets these days — portraying Andrew’s more vulgar instincts.
After viewing the first episode of Big Mouth, I was unsure if the show could last ten episodes; seeing adolescent lads stew in their own filth for too long can become tiresome. Big Mouth, on the other hand, makes a wise decision in its second episode by bringing both Nick and Andrew’s deadpan pal Jessi and Andrew’s nerdy crush Missy (Jenny Slate) into the forefront.
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When Jessi gets her first period and her own hormone monster — again, voiced to diabolical perfection by Rudolph — she begins flying into the kinds of random rages and inexplicable bouts of attraction that often define puberty for young girls, an experience that is far rarer to see depicted on TV than that of boys like Nick and Andrew.
Meanwhile, live wire Missy (who Slate voices as if she’s continuously gushing through a mouth of marbles) swings between opposing emotions as if she just has much too much sparking energy for her body to handle — which, of course, she does. And, throughout the season, Big Mouth makes a point of not only distinguishing Jessi and Missy’s experiences from those of their male classmates, but also emphasizing how twisted up people’s reactions to them going through identical stages are in comparison.
Big Mouth wouldn’t be much more than a collection of jokes about how strange and gross adolescence is if it were just a fun way to pass the time on a quiet weekend. However, the show achieves a new, deeper level of humour by keeping acutely aware of the reality that puberty is about more than simply body changes, but also about what it means to grow up at all.