The Happytime Murders
Directed by: Brian Henson
Screenplay by: Todd Berger
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker and Joel McHale
Run Time: 1h 31min
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
2 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
With this film, director Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, is definitely leaving his mark. Not unlike the way a dog covers what the last one left behind, it’s as if he wants you to know that these aren’t your father’s Muppets… definitely not his. Some might not care for how he brazenly bastardizes his families legacy but for those of you who saw the Red Band trailer and liked the idea of raunchy puppets cursing at one another, watching porn and having sex, this most likely won’t be an issue. ‘The Happytime Murders’ would have been a really fun short film. Stretching it into a feature was reaching too far but it doesn’t mean you won’t have some laughs; it’s just ego on Henson’s part to believe adults will be so enraptured by foulmouthed puppets to bear with the time it takes to watch all the way through.
One could argue that there’s something twisted and devious about Henson using the puppets in this manner when his father, much to the delight of millions of people all over the world, utilized them to educate young children and entertain families but depending on how you look at it, Brian Henson is very much entertaining a specific audience, as well… just not the same one and not in as artful a way. Essentially, many of you won’t appreciate this type of crude humor and that’s okay. This film wasn’t designed for you and it seems Henson is okay with that because it doesn’t make it any less funny to those he created it for.
‘The Happytime Murders’ brings together a detective named Edwards (McCarthy) and former detective turned private investigator, Phil Phillips (voice of Bill Barretta) when members of The Happytime Gang (an old puppet television show) are murdered one by one. Phil’s brother Larry, who was ‘police officer Shenanigans’ on the show (which brought up thoughts of ‘Super Troopers’) is one of the victims. Edwards and Phillips were once partners in the department until an incident occurred that caused Phil to be released and excommunicate from the department. The tensions are high between these two but they’re both on the right side of the law and with only one goal in mind, they agree to work together. To bring some mystery in a caper that has little of it, Phil, who we know is a good guy, gets fingered for the killings and it’s up to Edwards, with help from Phil’s secretary Bubbles (Rudolph), to clear his name and find the real killer.
McCarthy is believable in her character to the degree I honestly don’t believe anyone, but she could have pulled this off. It’s time someone gives her a role in something other than a comedy, but she makes Edwards and all her animosity toward her old partner believable and thus more palatable when the jokes wear thin.
What I liked very much but think may have been largely missed because of the sexual perversions that you end up surprised with, was the discrimination by humans toward the puppets, who now must live among us. It seems they still ‘sing and dance for the man,’ even though they don’t want to… but how will they be taken seriously when they’re just colored felt and fluff? Even animals attack them on a daily basis, dogs especially, as they’re seen as nothing but a plaything. One of my favorite scenes is of two smalls dogs barking at a puppet while he screams at them that he isn’t a squeaky toy. Pay attention closely because there are several gems like that hidden in the background.
It isn’t difficult to shock people using sex, but it is challenging to keep the interest of an audience for over an hour using nothing but dirty jokes. I can’t say this is worth seeing at the theatre unless you’re paying matinee price but for those curious enough to see it, as you may have been with seeing ‘Sausage Party’ and ‘Team America,’ please know what you’re getting into. It’s going to be naughty but just have fun. And be sure to stay during some of the credits to watch a little of how they made this world come to life.