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Big Mouth [Season 1]

Big Mouth marks Netflix's latest foray into the world of adult animation, following the success of Bojack Horseman and F Is For Family. And with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney involved (Kroll is credited as creator alongside Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin and Andrew Goldberg) you can be sure that it's really going to push the "adult" side to the fore.

The series follows a group of young schoolfriends, Nick (played by Kroll), Andrew (Mulaney) Jessi (Jessi Klein) and Jay (Jason Mantzoukas), as they struggle with the first stages of puberty. The show's main hook is that the onset of puberty is personified by a "hormone monster" (also voiced by Kroll).

The series deals with issues the characters face with their rampaging hormones, strange new feelings and the usual adolescent concerns while mixing in more fantastical elements like the monsters, ghosts and more. Don't go expecting Buffy the animated series though- this is a sitcom through and through.

American adult animation often has a tendency towards outrageous humour, and Big Mouth is definitely no different. The show takes full advantage of the fact that its on Netflix and therefore not subject to network censorship or notes. There's jokes and material here that you'd never see on US network television, and possibly not even premium cable.

Comedy is one of the toughest genres to review, as there are fewer things that are more subjective. What is and what isn't funny is very much in the eye of the beholder, and all I can do is try and tell you what my personal experience was- and maybe give you the tools to guess whether you're likely to agree with me or not.

Big Mouth has a pretty scattershot attitude with its jokes and is a rather hit-and-miss affair as a result. There are the expected rude jokes about bodily functions and human anatomy,  but there's also some more keenly observed jokes about universal experiences, and some smart cultural references- it even riffs on the streaming platform it finds its home. Occasionally it tries too hard to be edgy and just comes across as mean-spirited (a reference to Malala seems particularly ill judged).

Even when the jokes don't quite work, credit must go to the excellent voice cast for keeping it afloat. Kroll and Mulaney do fine jobs in the lead roles (both also providing other voices throughout) and they are part of a strong ensemble with excellent work from Jordan Peele, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph and many more.

What is most surprising, however, is that beneath all the naughty jokes, the show has real heart. Underneath all the crudity, the central characters (or at least some of them) are surprisingly lovable and there is a genuine sweetness to their friendships. The show was sold as being from "real life best friends Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg" and you can see how they were able to bring this sense of semi-autobiographical authenticity to the relationships in the show. When it's clear that the writers actually care about the characters, it much easier for the audience to do the same. Which is not bad going for a show which- like some of its characters- has an almost unhealthy obsession with masturbation.

American adult animation often seems to go for a deliberately ugly look. Perhaps it's some sort of way of distinguishing it from family-friendly animation but it often has the opposite of the desired effect, instead driving people away. While the animation itself is solid, the character designs and visual style are not exactly visually appealing. Which is definitely a shame, as it could turn some audiences off.

Big Mouth is no Bojack Horseman, but overall it turned out to be much better than anticipated. If like me, the trailers turned you off the show, give it a go and you too might just find it to be something of a pleasant surprise.

FROM Netflix

10 Episodes 

IN A NUTSHELL: Naughty but (surprisingly) nice, Big Mouth also has an unexpectedly Big Heart.