[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Big Mouth” Season 3, including the ending.]
“Disclosure” isn’t a movie I hear too many kids talking about these days. Barry Levinson’s 1994 drama stars two icons of their era, Demi Moore and Michael Douglas, and features a few steamy scenes (also very much of the era) wrapped up in a bigger, grosser movie about a new boss (Moore) who accuses her employee (Douglas) of sexual harassment as payback for him refuting her advances. It… isn’t exactly a classic (though, tellingly, it did earn Moore two MTV Award nominations for Most Desirable Female and Best Villain). In fact, the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s bestseller was only recently brought back to the edge of prominence as the #MeToo movement started gaining steam, and scared, cowardly men needed a recognizable scapegoat scenario to toss out when they were accused of sexual harassment.
So why does “Big Mouth” devote an entire episode of Season 3 to its adolescent stars turning that film into a school musical? In short, because its creators and executive producers Nick Kroll, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Jennifer Flackett are brilliant. Through three seasons now, they’ve been able to enlist the most inane, unexpected pop culture references for the greater good, turning everything from the severed head of Garrison Keillor to Duke Ellington’s sexual awakening into hilarious, edifying attributes within their oddly heartwarming series.
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But “Disclosure” isn’t just the most recent example of the writing team’s savvy ability to incorporate random movies or celebrities. And it’s not just a silly, Wikipedia-searchable reference point to show how far society has come between 1994 and now in terms of trusting women, calling out misogyny, and recognizing patriarchal power dynamics. It’s a calculated method of speaking to both kids and adults at the same time — something essential to “Big Mouth’s” own prominent standing in the cultural discussion.
“Disclosure the Movie: The Musical!” is the penultimate episode of Season 3, and it actually holds up well as a standalone entry. (Most of Season 3 is told with a strong episodic structure that still pushes the serialized story forward.) A lot of the long-term groundwork is done in Coach Steve’s B-plot, where the Queer Eye guys give him a makeover to help get his job back, but it’s also a critical episode for Nick (voiced by Nick Kroll), Andrew (John Mulaney), and Missy (Jenny Slate). The two best friends face an unexpected stand-off — over misplaced affection for Missy — while the woman playing Demi Moore discovers her sexual self-confidence, thanks to a new Hormone Monstress voiced by Thandie Newton.
But back to “Disclosure.” After a quick run-down of the plot — summed up nicely by “This movie is confusing” — the kids audition, get their parts, and rebel. Director Terry Lizer (Rob Huebel) insists the musical adaptation is “an exploration of the dangerous times that we men are now forced to navigate. This play dares to harass the very notion of sexual harassment and say, ‘Uh, yeah, Me Too.’” This, appropriately, sends Jessi (Jessi Klein) over the edge: “This play discredits women who have the courage to speak out!” she tells her teacher. “It’s a misogynistic fantasy!”
Ignored by Lizer and most of her friends, Jessi quits, along with a few others. Gina (Gina Rodriguez) leaves over being cast as Señorita Cleaning Lady (a part, per Mr. Lizer, that only exists “because diversity”), as does Matthew (Andrew Rannells), who misses out on the lead role. Why? Because he’s gay, and gay men can’t be a romantic lead.
What’s clear right from the start is that “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical” is a story that Mr. Lizer is inspired by, and not one that reflects the reality his students are living in. If Jessi’s well-reasoned outrage wasn’t enough, the inappropriate material inherent to “Disclosure” should suffice. The kids have no interest in telling a story from 1994. They’re barely even titillated by the material. But this is their assignment, so the musical must go on.
This, of course, draws to mind plenty of so-called classics put on time and time again at schools across the country. Who cares if the students don’t connect to the material anymore? Who cares if the material is outdated? The teachers, parents, and school officials remember these plays, and that’s what matters… right? “Big Mouth” knows that’s wrong — that there’s a fundamental difference between honoring timeless art and forcing kids to engage with stories on someone else’s terms — and the series uses a verifiably awful example to drive home its own honorable point. Mr. Lizer is quickly exposed as a lecherous predator, who manipulates Lola (Kroll) into giving him foot massages. The musical is canceled before it can be staged, and good, in general, prevails.
So too does “Big Mouth.” Similar to the older, outdated teacher figure, the Netflix original utilizes older, outdated references to tell its story. With a ghost-like Sylvester Stallone made out of cum and a Dolph Lundgren Shit Monster, the pop culture iconography implemented in Season 3 (and previous years) is far from hip and trendy. But what keeps “Big Mouth” current is its delivery, focus, and commitment to inclusivity.
The jokes fly fast and furious, so if you don’t know who Dolph Lundgren is, there’s a joke about big dick energy right behind it. Episodes throughout Season 3 expand beyond our lead quartets’ perspectives, telling Duke Ellington’s origin story from a black youth’s POV and earlier giving Matthew a touching full-episode arc dedicated to his first kiss with a boy. As for the “Disclosure” entry, just look at the reasons people quit the play: racism, sexism, and other problems generated by generations of a cis-white dude patriarchy.
Plenty of animated comedies can be for parents and their kids. Pixar perfected the balancing act long ago, though it skewed young. Series like “Bob’s Burgers” aim a little older, but are still fit for the whole family. “Big Mouth” is definitely meant for junior high schoolers and up, but what helps separate it from the pack is how much it crams into each episode that’s for everybody. Your teenage kid might laugh off “Disclosure the Movie: The Musical” as a sharp, satirical dig on old people, recognizing its woke perspective just as they regularly do in their day-to-day life. They may learn a thing or two about consent, trust, and power dynamics, but parents will likely see a much more drastic change. They could notice big shift in how this film is perceived, how it’s being discussed, and what it meant about who we were, as a culture, in the ’90s.
Both messages are as thought-provoking as they are funny, and “Big Mouth” continues to deliver a unique blend of high-minded lessons and low-brow humor with each passing entry. Even when it’s talking about some bad old movie you’ve never heard of or barely remember, “Big Mouth” is universal.
“Big Mouth” Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.