The Happytime Murders (2018)
The Jim Henson Company
Directed by: Brian Henson
Written by: Todd Berger & Dee Austin Robertson
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Leslie David Edwards & Bill Barretta.
‘The Happytime Murders‘ hit theaters this weekend. On paper, this film has a lot going for it – a raunchy comedy where live actors and puppets share the screen, a solid cast including Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale & Leslie David Baker, directed by Brian Henson, produced by Henson Alternative, etc. Unfortunately, the movie just doesn’t deliver on its potential. The story follows former puppet cop turned P.I. Phil Phillips (voiced by actor Bill Barretta) who is brought in to consult on a case where cast members of a former TV show called ‘Happytime’ are being killed off one-by-one. He’s paired again with his former partner Detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy) who no longer gets along with Phillips after she was wounded back when they were partners and blames Phillips for the whole debacle. The film has trouble deciding whether or not it wants to be a noir crime piece or a buddy-cop movie and, perhaps as a result, fails to achieve either. There are laughs to be had but only because of the over-the-top puppet exploitation (if that’s even a thing?), some fairly ludicrous scenarios involving puppet vs human violence as well as what can only be described as puppet porn.
The real-life actors try their best, but they all seem to be either under obligation to knock out this film or just plain weary of being there. Elizabeth Banks truly commits to her part and Maya Rudolph shines the brightest out of the cast but the plot is so threadbare that it hardly seems to matter. In fact, in a world where puppets can be cops and McCarthy has the liver of a puppet, I found myself bothered by details like “How can McHale’s FBI agent status allow him to relieve an LAPD Detective of her badge?!?!”. Yeah… the plot is that bad! ‘The Happytime Murders’ fails to achieve the same level of ludicrous fun that ‘Team America: World Police‘ gave us nearly 15 years ago and isn’t nearly as clever as ‘Avenue Q‘ in terms of funny puppet raunch. If you are desperate for a new film to see this weekend and don’t plan to bring the kids, then maybe this one will be for you. Otherwise, I’d recommend waiting until this movie hits Redbox or possibly skipping it altogether. There just isn’t enough stuffing to fulfill any fan of The Muppets or movies.