Big Mouth, Nick Kroll’s new animated series, opens with the two main characters, Nick and Andrew, learning about a woman’s uterus. They’re in their junior high sex ed class and are legitimately trying to figure out whether that’s the same thing as a vagina. Soon after, Jessi, a female student in their class, laments about the fact puberty seems to just make boys horny while girls become “a yarn ball of aching tubes.” Eventually, Andrew leaving class early so that he can jerk off in the bathroom. Right from the start, Big Mouth establishes itself as a dark, unapologetic show as jam-packed with dick jokes as it is awkward moments. And it’s refreshing in the frank way it handles puberty for both boys and girls.
The brand new Netflix show is an ode to the weird, confusing, and isolating period in life known as puberty. Big Mouth centers around a group of junior high boys and girls hoping to make sense of what the hell is going on as they experience new feelings and bizarre physical changes. Nick and Andrew, are two kind-hearted, but completely clueless nerds who are just trying (and failing) to survive each day without facing too much humiliation. Their lives are constantly thrown into a chaos by the Hormone Monster, a literal monster that manifests all the unpredictable behavior that comes with puberty. Unlike most shows, Big Mouth doesn’t just focus on how puberty affects boys. The show gives equal time exploring the completely different but equally terrifying experiences of hormonal preteen girls, specifically in the form of the Hormone Monstress, who makes Jessi think the answer to all her problems is yelling at her mom.
Big Mouth is a show for people who have enough distance between themselves and their awkward puberty years to look and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. It takes delight in showing the disastrous results of kids facing sexuality for the first time. After Nick accidentally sees Andrew’s penis after a harmless prank goes wrong, he realizes his friend has begun maturing before him. Suddenly, Nick starts seeing dicks everywhere he goes. It culminates in a living nightmare sequence where Nick is playing basketball against a bunch of very large and very detailed penises. It’s horrifying — and hysterical — to watch, but only because it perfectly captures the way preteen minds tend to meticulously obsess life’s most shame-inducing moments.
Co-created by comedian Nick Kroll, who also provides the voices for Nick, the Hormone Monster, and the dimwitted Coach Steve. Kroll is a master of over exaggerated impressions and ridiculous characters, and his skills are well utilized here, especially with the nonchalantly evil Hormone Monster. John Mulaney is equally hilarious as Nick’s best friend Andrew, who is trapped in a constant state of “What is happening to me?” Maya Rudolph, Jessi Klein, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, and Jason Mantzoukas round out the cast which is talented enough to even make weak jokes work.
Big Mouth is not a show without its flaws. Thanks to the broad topic, sometimes jokes can be lazy and obvious. There’s a moment when Coach Steve brags about living in a storage unit near the airport. (Get it? Gym teachers are gross!) And while the core characters are fully developed and well thought out, many of the minor ones feel more like plot devices instead of people. The most egregious case is Andrew’s dad, who does little more than filling the role of a dad who is hoping to scare his son out of ever having sex.
Still, the show’s frank approach to tackling puberty with cringe-inducing honesty and a high density of filthy, off the wall jokes more than make-up for any of Big Mouth’s shortcomings. After all, what other show can end an episode with a heartwarming moment of friendship after one character discovers another trying to clean sperm off their pants using toilet water?