Netflix UK review: John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch
James R | On 23, Dec 2020
“There is no one like you. There has never been anyone like you. There will never be anyone like you. Therefore, be yourself.” That’s André De Shields in the Netflix comedy special John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch. If that doesn’t like the stuff a comedy special is made of, you need to adjust your dial: this is a deliberately retro affair, one that’s powered by nostalgia as much as laughs.
Intentionally trying to recapture the magic of a bygone TV era, when the earnest tones of Sesame Street and its ilk would see children gladly sing songs about feelings with celebrity guests. Made in 2019, it’s an inevitably more knowing affair than that, and John Mulaney’s Sack Lunch Bunch waste no time in showing their post-modern smarts. But while there’s a fictional book called Sascha’s Dad Does Drag and the Act Needs Work and a segment in which a maths teacher (played by De Shields) explains how he lost an eye due to algebra, there’s also a sweet mix of more innocent silliness and sentiment – one song and dance number, for example, is simply about how much one of the kids likes to eat noodles.
Once your expectations have been set, the ensuing hour is a delightful variety show, which blends impressive star guests (including David Byrne, Richard Kind and Natasha Lyonne) with some gloriously absurd musical musings – from a story about a woman crying in the street to a delightful ode to the boyfriend of someone’s grandma, called Paul. It’s fronted by Mulaney with an acerbic, wry wit that works for both kids and adults alike (it’s rated with a PG certificate) – and the Bunch are all likeable and talented without seeming coached or unnatural.
The standout segment, though, sees Jake Gyllenhaal appear as “Mr Music”, a man determined to prove that music can be heard and found in any everyday setting. It’s a dazzling turn from the Zodiac star, who dives into the manic chaos in a way you’ve never seen from him before. The result is wonderfully old-fashioned nonsense woven together with sincere heart – a distinctly unconventional family comedy special that’s happy simply to be itself. You’d do well to tune into its wavelength.
John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.