Courtesy of Netflix

“Big Mouth” is back, and the hormones are raging more than ever. Since its inception in 2017, the animated Netflix series has garnered a reputation for portraying puberty in all its glorious grossness in an honest, empathetic and hilarious manner. In Season 3, “Big Mouth” continues to live up to this reputation while also attempting to expand its scope to other pre-teen issues with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, it remains an audaciously enjoyable trek through the terrifying terrain of middle school life.

Picking up where the show’s stellar Valentine’s Day special left off, Season 3 opens with nearly every character struggling in one way or another. Andrew Glouberman (John Mulaney) is still partially bald and very much wounded by rejection from his crush, Missy (Jenny Slate). Nick Birch (Nick Kroll) is confused by his new overly emotional state and female hormone monstress, Connie (Maya Rudolph). Jay Bilzerian (Jason Mantzoukas) has given up masturbating with his pillows in order to contemplate his sexuality. The girls, on the other hand, must grapple with a sexist dress code implemented by the faux-feminist teacher, Mr. Lizer (Rob Huebel). The first episode is one of the strongest of the season, as it successfully balances between making fun of its characters and presenting their problems in a nuanced and sensitive manner.

Where the show starts to lose its footing, however, is in its attempt to incorporate storylines that are unrelated or only tangentially related to the emotional and physical changes its characters undergo. These include a string of preachy episodes about cell-phone addiction and a plot involving the sale of study drugs. These storylines aren’t funny or compelling, and they muddle the focus of the series while dragging down the first half of the season. Additionally, Season 3 lacks some of the star characters that made previous seasons more entertaining. For instance, Coach Steve (Kroll), whose presence was a large part of the show, is relegated to a running gag for most of Season 3 where he pops up in every episode working an odd job that he isn’t good at. The Shame Wizard (David Thewlis), who was a major driver of conflict in Season 2, makes disappointingly few appearances in the new season.

Still, while some plot lines failed, others were, in typical “Big Mouth” fashion, disgusting and delightful. Matthew’s (Andrew Rannells) budding romance with Aiden (Zachary Quinto) is particularly well-executed. It illustrates one of the biggest strengths of the show: regardless of sexuality or gender identity, everyone is entitled to an equally awkward, equally funny coming-of-age story. Another successful set-up revolves around Jessi Glaser’s (Jessi Klein) introduction to female pleasure, courtesy of a “The Price is Right”-themed game show called “Do the Thing!” where she learns that there is no wrong way to explore her body. 

What makes this new season of “Big Mouth” stand out in particular is its off-the-wall, over-the-top dedication to humor. The show will spare no detail to craft a good joke. There are a variety of musical numbers, from a lamentation by two characters wondering why no one is interested in them to a number featuring the ghosts of David Bowie and Prince to explain the spectrum of sexuality. A would-be one-off joke about “Arch-dick Ferdinand” is instead expanded into a World War I gag that runs through the rest of the episode. Oftentimes, the comedy extends into the opening theme song or end credits, and it all works together to make episodes that are raucously funny from beginning to end. 

Netflix is a large part of “Big Mouth” this season. There are plenty of jokes at its expense, including a particularly sharp jab at one of the streaming service’s other shows, “13 Reasons Why,” perhaps to drive home the point that no one is safe from mockery on the show, even the platform which airs it. However, Netflix also promotes itself throughout Season 3, whether it be through Jay learning to be comfortable about his sexuality through a Netflix show, or a crossover episode with another Netflix original, “Queer Eye.” While funny at first, this self-referentiality can quickly become tiresome. 

Despite a slow start and some poorly executed plot lines, Season 3 of “Big Mouth” is a wholly entertaining ride from start to finish. Its diverse cast of characters are all united in the excruciating experience of growing up, something with which every viewer can empathize. The season’s dual commitment to jokes and genuinity make it well worth the watch, zits and all. 

 

Grade: B+