Netflix’s Big Mouth provides a surprisingly accurate and honest portrayal of adolescence. The newest animated series on the block is about the trials and tribulations of going through puberty, following two young boys, Andrew and Nick, as they experience it all first hand; from discovering your sexuality to all those bodily changes. Puberty is embodied by two crude, humorous hormone monsters, who guide and drag the adolescents through some of the most cringey parts of their transformations.
The show has received criticism for its, at times, rather graphic portrayal of the young characters. Episodes devoted to periods, masturbation, and involuntary ejaculation are uncomfortable and awkward to watch – but that may be intentional. Puberty is an uncomfortable and awkward time and the show has succeeded in capturing this fact. Thus, while the criticism is somewhat understandable, it is perhaps too harsh. There are, however, many other problems with the show.
The ghost of Duke Ellington, connected to the boys through their attic hangout where he resides – while entertaining – feels somewhat out of the blue. This is symptomatic of one of the main flaws of the show: it tries to cram in too much. Between ghosts, monsters, and anthropomorphic pregnant pillows, there are too many disparate plots going on to know what is real and what is just taking place in the characters’ heads. It also feels that the show is trying too hard to cram in zany characters in the hope that some stick, which leaves the writers with little breathing room.
The highlight of the show is definitely the hormone monster’s dialogue with Andrew, which works as a great allegory for intrusive thoughts; the character of the hormone monster is reminiscent of Roger from American Dad. In fact, the two shows are remarkably similar in terms of the characters and overall tone; the main difference between them is that Big Mouth has more of an overarching plot. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does make Big Mouth seem somewhat less original than it otherwise would.
It is a surprisingly self aware show, often using meta humour to address the perceived flaws of the show but, at the same time, is too heavy handed in dealing with social issues. The young characters fluctuate dramatically in maturity at different points in the show.
Overall, Big Mouth is rather hit and miss. The humour, while ridiculously crude at times, is genuinely funny. The harsh truths about puberty and high school are also incredibly relatable. While Big Mouth falls short of the high standards set for animated television today by shows like Bojack Horseman and Rick and Morty, it has definite potential.
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