Tuca and Bertie

In ten episodes, Tuca and Bertie creates a fleshed-out world with two messy, believable protagonists and their long-term, long-suffering relationship

Film Review by Carmen Paddock | 16 May 2019
  • Tuca and Bertie
Film title: Tuca and Bertie
Director: Various (Created by: Lisa Hanawalt)
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, Steven Yeun, John Early, Richard E Grant, Reggie Watts

Fans of creator Lisa Hanawalt’s human-animal hybrids made famous by Bojack Horseman may flock (pun intended) to this similarly inventive world, but aside from nonstop visual gags and the zoologically diverse world the comparison ends here. The titular avian heroines are ordinary women in what would be an ordinary (though very well-scripted) sitcom were it not for its colourful, anarchic universe. The show takes a few episodes to find its feet and justify the uniqueness of its setting, and the full-on psychedelics of the visuals are not an easy sell.

However, when it finds its stride with its feathered friends’ antics, corporate satire, and razor-sharp depictions of everyday sexism (including a literal bodily revolt), Tuca and Bertie takes flight. The outstanding comedic voice cast makes the most outlandish scenarios feel entirely natural. Most of the histories of Tuca (Haddish), Bertie (Wong) and Speckle (Yeun) come out through flashbacks – mini animation showcases that prove the show’s creative peak – and casual conversation, which keeps the plot pacey and characterisations unforced.

Perhaps the only other way Tuca and Bertie could be compared to Bojack is its exploration of mental health, though it does not spend as much time in truly dark territory. Addiction, anxiety and trauma are everyday mainstays of its protagonists’ lives and depicted with a casualness that is both horrifying and relieving; neither character is defined by struggles that would take the entire focus of a lesser show. This clear-eyed approach to the all-pervasive reality of living sober or dealing with the remnants of assault allows the show to give these experiences appropriate weight while not losing its optimism and whimsy.

In ten episodes, Tuca and Bertie creates a fleshed-out world with two messy, believable protagonists and their long-term, long-suffering relationship. It is an ode to female friendships and solidarity in the literal and figurative jungle of modern life, where having one’s life together is nothing more than an illusion. It is a delightful, poignant watch – just don’t think too much about how pet ownership or deli meats work in this society.

Currently streaming on Netflix