TV Show Review: Big Mouth
Created by: Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett
Starring: the voices of Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein, Jenny Slate, Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph
Available on: Netflix
Genre: Animation,Comedy, Romance
My Rating: **/5
“Big Mouth” is an animated Netlfix sitcom which began streaming earlier this fall. While the premise of a coming of age story told through pubescent youths may not be a bad idea, it’s marred by flawed execution that wastes a talented cast of comedic actors on mediocre scripts, inconsistent voice acting and an animation style that’s as repulsive as its jokes.
The series is a fictionalized account of Nick Kroll’s coming of age told from a modern perspective, and also has animated versions of co-creators Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett as high school students in New York City. Although the template is there for a genuinely earnest look at the changes the body and mind in one’s teenage years, the ten episodes that have streamed so far lack the writing and animation quality of other adult animated TV series; including other ones streaming on Netflix.
For frame of reference, many of the jokes are the very definition of “not safe for work.” The first episode alone has a scene where a character does a “deep dive” into a toilet trying to retrieve his phone. Depending on your tolerance for this sort of humor, you may feel like that after watching this show. A female character also has her “naughty bits” speak with the voice of comedienne Kate McKinnon; an actress who has been far funnier on other TV shows, especially as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
There are also rather bizarre uses of pop-culture references. On one hand, there are mockeries of the “Grand Theft Auto” video game franchise as well as Jane Fonda’s infamous workout video. On the other, there is a running gag involving the spirit of musician Duke Ellington; whose vocal performance resembles Bill Cosby, adding another layer of discomfort given his indiscretions in recent years.
The art style is definitely the show’s biggest flaw. While the animation is fine from a technical standpoint; the character designs resemble high school notebook drawings in the worst way possible. The human characters all feature beady eyes and oversized heads, and the monstrous manifestations of puberty resemble furry fusions of oversized troll dolls and the homonculi from the “Full Metal Alchemist” franchise.
While the show has received largely positive critical reviews, audience reception has been much more mixed. By the same proxy, what staying power the show might have on Netflix has been muddled by controversy about its content; leaving a second season as of this writing unannounced. Overall, “Big Mouth” definitely captures the feeling of awkward high school days; though your enjoyment will probably be tied to your personal experiences of that time. While the show is at least better than “Neo Yokio,” it’s not the best piece of adult animation Netflix has to offer; let alone the best retelling of growing up. Better options include the cult TV series “Freaks and Geeks,” as well as Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” and “Dazed and Confused.” Much like a teenager that is trying to find themselves, it tries everything to find its own identity but ultimately ends up getting lost in a sea of misguided hijinks that are ultimately more gross than sexy.
Review by Steven Pryor