Joel Haver’s review published on Letterboxd:
Since distancing himself from YouTube, I’ve had an ever-increasing sense that Bo Burnham no longer finds the comedy parts of his comedy specials funny. Some may argue that that’s the point and that Bo uses comedy solely as a vehicle for the thematics and messaging of his work, but I’d argue that the audience is still supposed to find most of Make Happy and even parts of this funny, even if Bo doesn’t. And for me that’s the biggest failure of Bo’s work even as it gets better and better, I can’t laugh at a joke that the teller doesn’t think is funny. I love Make Happy for the ending but can pretty well take or leave the rest of it.
It’s for this reason that I wish Inside wasn’t marketed as a comedy special. I understand why it is (though I think the “it’s a comedy special, HA gotchya it’s actually a self reflexive performance piece” trick can only be done once and Bo has already played that hand). Calling this what it is, a feature length film, would be so much more powerful. Exposing the world to the fact that, yes, you can make a movie alone and, yes, it can be more interestingly shot and assembled than most anything being put out by studios, is a powerful message we need right now. This isn’t the future of comedy specials, this is the future of filmmaking and Bo has the platform to usher that in faster than anyone else doing what he does.
For similar reasons, I wish this wasn’t on Netflix. Releasing this for free on YouTube not only would have been such a baller move but would have gone even further to show people they too can do this right now. People can/know how to upload on YouTube, no one knows what sort of satanic rituals you have to attend to get on Netflix. I joke, mostly.
I’ve always found Bo to be a tremendous overthinker in his work. Even the best parts of Make Happy suffer from being meticulously planned out. Inside is him at his most free, he’s still overthinking but he confronts that and many times says fuck it and shoots whatever he wants and feels whatever he needs to. It makes this his most bloated work but by far his best. I think he and I would have a great conversation, primarily cause if I had any musical talent I likely would’ve made this too.