- Directed by Brian Henson
- August 24, 2018
A group of puppets from a once popular show are being killed one by one and it is now up to the brother of one of those victims to solve the crime and clear his name.
While I enjoyed it, The Happytime Murders is most definitely a niche product. It is not one of those things that would ever have broad audience appeal but would rather connect with a narrow segment of the population. Namely those that like The Muppet Show as an adult as much as they did as a child and who like raunchy humor. That is a pretty narrow group.
In full disclosure I am not a big fan of Melissa McCarthy. I think there’s a lot a great deal of hype with her but not a great deal of delivery. She definitely has good public relations people, but she doesn’t actually have any good material. At least nothing that my broad sensibilities would generally enjoy.
This though may have been the first thing I have watched of McCarthy’s that I actually enjoyed. Then again this is my type of humor. It’s a combination of raunchy and silly. It felt like something from the 80s in that respect. Comedies like that were a dime a dozen but are an extremely rare breed these days.
The world of The Happytime Murders is a world where puppets and humans coexist. There is puppet porn and apparently even puppet murders. Puppets do drugs (some kind of super sugar) and act like people. There is even a level of anti-puppet bigotry in the world. That aspect though comes and goes as events dictate. I would have like to see it played up a bit more. I think you could have done a bit of social commentary as well as ludicrous comedy.
The main character is former puppet cop Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) turned private detective who unwittingly finds himself involved in this investigation as a consultant with his former partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy).
Years prior Phil had missed a shot when a criminal puppet held a gun on Connie. The bullet ricocheted off a pillar and killed an innocent bystander. Not only did Phil get himself kicked off the force but the incident also caused a ban on all puppets ever being police officers.
In case you have not realized by now, despite the presence of puppets, this movie is not for kids. I think this may be the first time I ever seen puppet sex in a film. Seriously. As weird as this may sound, that was an indication that the thinking of Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson along with Brian Henson was moving in the right direction but for some reason they never went all in. Perhaps if they had written it with humans in mind then tweaked it for puppets things might have been different.
Aside from being a buddy cop film they do make a bit of an homage to Basic Instinct in the interrogation scene with the puppet femme fatale Sandra (Dorien Davies). She is a sex addicted seductress that seduces Phil and has ulterior motives in everything she does.
Elizabeth Banks plays Phil’s former flame Jenny Peterson who is currently a burlesque dancer and was the sole human member of The Happytime Gang. Maya Rudolph is Phil’s kind and upbeat secretary Bubbles who, in an homage to detective noir, harbors a crush on Phil. And we have Joel McHale as FBI Special Agent Campbell who is the douchebag authoritarian figure out to get Phil regardless of the facts. All cliches used in the serious version of these types of films.
The direction seemed a little flat. It didn’t seem like something for a movie theater experience but rather should’ve shown up on a streaming service. I think if it had it would’ve been better received. You drop money to go to a theater you expect something a little special at a minimum. There is a bit of style needed and this just does not have it. Presentation for something like this really matters.
As I said this is a very niche film. It’s not for everybody and thinking it could be big in theaters was a bit of a mistake. Its major weakness lay in that. The jokes needed to hit a little harder and come a little faster. And there needed to be more elements with broad appeal.
The Happytime Murders is a very niche product but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. With a little more effort it could have connected better with audiences. It’s funny and witty and weird and very strange. If that’s your thing then this is something you should check out!