Monday, October 9, 2017

Big Mouth: Filthy, Vulgar, Vile, Hilarious and Sweet

At the recommendation of a friend I watched the first episode of “Big Mouth” the Nick Kroll produced series for Netflix. My first reaction after only a few minutes in was of something hilarious yet, vile, filthy, and taking full advantage of not having to be censored. It didn’t take long before I realized the show was going to be taken in in a two day binge, 5 episodes at a time.

The familiar topic of teenage awkwardness at the onset of puberty has seldom, if ever, been addressed so matter-of-factly and in terms and visuals as disgustingly hilarious as it has here. For one thing, generally the domain of a “boys only” realm, “Big Mouth” gives equal time and opportunity to show just what a disgusting, tragic and confusing mess this time of life is for girls as well. The series revolves around 8th graders, Andrew (John Mulaney), Nick (Kroll), Jessi (Jessi Glaser), Missy (Jenny Slate) and Jay (Jason Mantzoukas). The series – definitely for adult only audiences – is, almost necessarily animated for a number of reasons. First and foremost, a live version would require child actors, and, given the material, language and . . . well, it’d have had mothers and churches and civic groups protesting to shut it down, and rightfully so. Instead, we’re given exquisite voice performances by adult actors, who do very little to sound childish, their own vocal imprints coming through so we’re always, at some level at least, aware these are not children, but actors reliving childhood.

At its heart, “Big Mouth” is not only about the changes our bodies go through at that age, but about loyalty, friendship, social structures, family dysfunction, and secrets so terrifying one dare not share. In addition to the kids, the show is populated by two hormone monsters (over-the-top, terrifying performances by Maya Rudolf and series creator Kroll), and most hilariously, Nick’s unlikely confessor and mentor, the ghost of Duke Ellington. Frequently offering the worst possible advice, Duke is brutally honest as he shares memories of a bygone era, and delivers, in my opinion, the series best lines.

There is component of vulgar sexual violence that is pushed to its comedic limits and, definitely not for more sensitive viewers.
At times “Big Mouth” has the feel of an existentialist/absurdist work of theatre, not just crossing lines, but obliterating them into Kingdom Come . . . or is that Kingdom Cum?

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