Netflix reigns supreme when it comes to launching gems on their site and burying them in their massive library without any form of marketing to promote their efforts. So, it is always a breath of fresh air when one runs into a nugget of greatness that they did not know existed. That is how I ran into this glorious children’s special brought to us, surprisingly, by John Mulaney.
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch is a children’s special that incorporates the childish whimsy of Sesame Street and the underlying adult themes of SNL all while tackling deep subjects that previously only Mr. Rogers could do effectively. Sack Lunch Bunch is truly a gem of a variety show that sees John Mulaney and his cast of children tackling big issues such as family dynamics, fear, and death through comedy sketches, songs, and surprise guests that bring it all together.
When one thinks of John Mulaney, they normally think of the raunchy comedy we’ve seen from him in his comedy specials, SNL appearances, and his animated show Big Mouth. So, it is a little off-putting to see him doing something wholesome with children. However, his covert dark adult-humor blend very well in the format of a children’s variety show. When someone first looks at the ‘70’s/’80’s inspired child-friendly format, they will immediately think, “this is not for me”. What John Mulaney brings to the mix is a breath of realness that draws even adults into the child-like way of looking at the world. The dark undertones of this otherwise colorful world, is a great commentary to how kids actually see the world they live in. Gone are the days where children are blind to the dark corners, and Mulaney is able to show that by incorporating his own sensibilities.
All the children in the special do an incredible job balancing out the humor wrapped in adult cynicism. All of the child-led musical numbers and sketches are joyful, heartfelt, and very real to the childhood experience. Whether they are poking fun of children’s picky eating habits or showing the innocent perspective of children in the midst deep family issues, the children show that they are aware of the world and how the adults in their lives are shaping it. While the underlying theme is that children are no longer shielded from life’s horrors, the special is beautifully juxtaposing that position by providing a commentary on those parts of children’s lives that are not normally portrayed in their television while placing a filter that represents a time when children were more free and ignorant to some of the darker parts of their surroundings and shrouding the commentary in that innocence.
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch is a very special variety special. While some of the jokes will fly over kid’s heads, and some of the points will step on some adult toes (particularly in the Bible Belt), I highly recommend getting the family together to watch this Netflix gem (probably best suited for children 8+).
John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch is rated PG for brief violence, mild language, and dark humor.