Arts, Television, Review

‘Big Mouth’ V-Day Special Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

A “clusterf—k of passions.” An “emotional tour de force.” That is Valentine’s Day according to the ever pubescent middle schoolers of Big Mouth, the B.O. riddled, braces-wearing brainchild of Nick Kroll. With an all-star cast and an often painfully relatable portrayal of puberty, the Netflix animated series has garnered a large following since it first aired in 2017. In an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the second season—which was released on Oct. 5, 2018—Kroll and Co. rolled out My Furry Valentine just in time for Feb. 14.

The 46-minute extended episode handles the heart-eyed holiday with ample humor and originality. Jessi (Jessi Klein) and Matthew (Andrew Rannells) poke fun at oddly specific Hallmark cards while sifting through the card aisle at Walgreens, where they find a card designed just for incestuous conjoined twins and Lola (Kroll) parades around in a Cupid costume while“chomping” on pink perfume. References to the Greek classic Oedipus even emerge—one comes when the Ghost of Duke Ellington (Jordan Peele) advertises Oedipal Arrangements: “Your mother wants to sleep with you so give her some fruit.”

My Furry Valentine offers a healthy dose of Kroll and John Mulaney’s dynamic humor as well. The opening scene, during which Maury the Hormone Monster (Kroll) and Andrew (Mulaney) tell the story of how they first met à la daytime talk show interview, features a Mulaney style anecdote involving several asides about rom-coms. Racoons also make an appearance in the episode while working as table waiters—racoons were a prominent topic of discussion in Kroll and Mulaney’s brilliant Broadway show Oh, Hello.

Unlike other Kroll-Mulaney creations, however, the special relies heavily on gimmicky subplots so outlandish they border on cringe-worthy. Much of the episode focuses on Jay (Jason Mantzoukas) and his sentient pillows who he has copious amounts of sex with throughout the other two seasons—in one instance in Season Two, Jay gets a pillow pregnant—and in My Furry Valentine. Perhaps the weakest and most unnecessarily drawn-out subplot of the series, Jay’s screen time is graphic and visceral in the way that you certainly do not want a 13-year-old not-so-dry humping his pillows to be. Not to mention, Devin (June Diane Raphael) and DeVon (Jak Knight) get engaged, also at age 13.

For Big Mouth, the comedy lies in the oddities: Hormone Monsters run amok, scallops (all voiced by Jon Hamm) seduce Jewish men, and dogs are extremely self-aware. The same lighthearted humor finds a home in My Furry Valentine. For the Valentine’s special, the recurring ladybug (Kroll) makes an appearance to praise the episode’s abundance of cunnilingus, Jay eats cafeteria oysters, Andrew adopts a beret style Kangol hat, and Nick (Kroll) learns to love his unusually tender nipples—he has higher levels of estrogen due to his Hormone Monstress (Maya Rudolph) who, like Nick, is navigating the path to manhood for the first time.

My Furry Valentine also offers life updates for fan favorite characters Coach Steve (Kroll), Ricky the Hormone Monster (also Kroll), and the Ghost of Duke Ellington, although the Shame Wizard (David Thewlis)—and the Shame Lizard for that matter—make no appearance. Coach Steve offers the funniest one-liner of the episode when he informs the audience that his new gig as a Walgreens clerk is less than fulfilling: “Not to brag, but I’ve never been closer to suicide.” (“All I care about is the border wall. Keep everyone in—more friends for me,” is a close second.)

My Furry Valentine further pulls from Big Mouth’s big bag of tricks by sprinkling dark musical numbers throughout. The extended episode opens with a cynical characterization of Valentine’s Day as the cast of characters start their mornings and Jessi and Matthew offer a dazzling Sharpay and Ryan-esque number while at a restaurant. Connie, Nick and Jessi’s Hormone Monstress, steals the show with her slowed-down cover of Charles Bradley’s “Changes,”

The real value of Big Mouth is its ability to portray the trials of puberty with uncanny accuracy—frankly, the show is scary relatable. Bogged down by auxiliary storylines, My Furry Valentine is less so (How many newly-pubescent boys actually f—k their pillows on a regular basis?). Although My Furry Valentine highlights the rejection and insecurity that often come around Feb. 14 during the pre-teen and teenage years, it could have done so with one less mention of conjoined twins or horny pillows.

Featured Image by Netflix

February 10, 2019