Rating: 5 out of 5
To articulate exactly what makes Big Mouth work is a difficult order. Unless one is familiar with the work of the comedians behind the show, Big Mouth, can be extremely discomforting from afar. An animated comedy that handles the trials and tribulations of puberty, adolescence and sex in such an unflinching and confrontational manner would already be an unconventional premise for a series, however, things only get stranger when the children are voiced by adult actors. This would be an easy show to screw up, to cheapen, however, series creators, Jennifer Flackett, Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg and Mark Levin in addition to a loaded cast of comedic-vocal talent have crafted one of the most insightful, mature and downright hilarious animated comedies to arrive on a streaming platform.
The third season begins with a Valentine’s Day episode that explores Andrew Gloubermans (John Mulaney) burgeoning toxic masculinity. His hormone monster, Maurice (Nick Kroll), who is an occasional sweetheart, pushes him to make every wrong decision possible in this episode, as Andrew descends further into a resemblance of his father Marty (Richard Kind). Andrew’s character arc takes a dark turn this season, flirting with incest and white supremacy. His confused brain feels acutely wired into the insanity of adolescence, which consistently proves to his detriment. Somewhere under all those raging hormones is a good kid who just wants to do right by his friends and peers but is seemingly incapable because the chemicals in his brain are always telling him to be an asshole. Testosterone is simultaneously criticized, laughed at, while growing in definition and scope. Andrew may not be the most prominent or interesting character this season but the writers organic development of his character and Mulaney’s expressive vocal performance is a staggering achievement.
While the core friendship of Andrew and Nick (Nick Kroll) was a solid foundation for the series, season three wisely explores characters who had been previously regulated to bit roles. Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) and Missy (Jenny Slate) runaway with the season. Jay’s sexual confusion throughout the season and his subsequent sexual awakening forms one of the best character arcs in the show thus far. Jay is really growing up in a big way, whether he’s selling adderall, helping Coach Steve (Nick Kroll) with a makeover or hanging with the ghost of Duke Ellington, Jay is consistently the most imaginative yet bizarrely mature of the entire group. Missy progresses in equal measure this season, her fan-fiction erotica is a highlight, watching her and Jay bond over their advance awareness of sexuality was simultaneously heart-warming and raunchy. Missy steals the last two episodes, she owns both “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical” and “Super Mouth” her new hormone monster, Mona (Thandie Newton), proves similar to Maurice and Conny (Maya Rudolph) in that she occasionally pushes the historically “goody-two-shoes” Missy to engage in dubious decision making. Watching Missy confront Mr. Lizer (Rob Huebel) about the schools sexist dress code is a powerful and significant character development, a critical step in her path to selfhood.
Every character moves forward this season, after two seasons of establishing their personalities there is an effortless sense of movement. Nick’s parents Diane (Maya Rudolph) and Elliot (Fred Armisen) become more concerned and invasive about Nick’s tendencies to be condescending and manipulative, qualities that reach a climax by seasons end. Matthew (Andrew Ranelles) explores his sexuality while navigating the minefield that is his home-life with an ultra-conservative military-veteran dad (not that those two things necessarily belong together). Matthew in particular has been regulated to the sidelines in past seasons, it’s wonderful to see him shine here. The Ghost of Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele) is allotted an entire origin story that absolutely should’ve been a detour from the main show in every sense of the word, however, this episode does provide clarity and information on all the characters present in the episode, this is perhaps the most impressive aspect of Big Mouth. Even secondary characters feel involved and essential to the story, becoming responsible for some of the shows most enduring one liners.
To say I enjoyed this season of Big Mouth would be an understatement. I have viewed the new season several times (probably around five or six at this point) and I am still discovering new layers and jokes that I missed the first few viewings. There is a joke in almost every moment of this show and they are all funny at different intervals. If at first something doesn’t seem funny, you might’ve missed something crucial, there are gags so subtle and quick that Big Mouth demands repeat viewings. The presence of the massive volume of talent on this show is one of its strongest qualities, every comedian, despite their established position in the industry, pours their heart into this material, the fun they are having is palpable. Big Mouth has been renewed for three more seasons. To quote Jay: “Netflix has so much money they made a show just for me. Thanks Ted Sarandos”.