“The Happytime Murders” stars Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, and Elizabeth Banks. Released on August 24, 2018, the film is about a puppet private investigator who teams up with his ex-partner to find a serial killer.
The film is directed by Brian Henson, who also directed “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island”. For many years, Jim Henson’s famous puppet creations have been adored by countless kids and adults, whether it’s the Muppets, "Sesame Street", or “The Dark Crystal”. Although, in some occasions, they share a dark side that no young kid should ever witness. This film, in particular, showcases that dark side. Helmed by the son of the late Jim Henson, this crime comedy shows just what happens when Henson's puppets go R-rated, which was one of the reasons why it captured my interest. I think the last time we had an adult-rated puppet movie was back in 2004 when the creators of “South Park” made a film called “Team America: World Police”. So I’m guessing it took Hollywood almost 14 years to make another puppet film for adults? When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was in total disbelief as I caught sight of the Muppet creations cursing, performing sexual acts, doing drugs, and committing violence. That’s when I knew that I was going to be in for a wild ride. But will these things be enough to warrant a recommendation to the older fans of the Muppets and the general public (minus the kids)?
Set in the world where humans and puppets coexist with one another, the story follows a puppet named Phil Philips (Barretta), a former cop who now works as a private investigator. When a mysterious killer targets the cast members of the 1980s show, “The Happytime Gang”, Phil must reunite with his human ex-partner, Connie Edwards (McCarthy), to find the murderer and solve the case. In case you haven’t watched the red band trailer for this film, allow me to make it clear that just because it involves puppets, it doesn’t mean that it’s for kids. There’s no singing, no dancing, and no sunshine and rainbows. It’s just puppets doing stuff that you would normally see in any other R-rated comedy, such as cursing and having sex. It’s sort of like “Sausage Party”. It may look family-friendly from the posters, but in reality, it looks like something that would traumatize a child in a matter of minutes. Brian Henson is no stranger to directing films with puppets, having done so with two Muppet movies back in the 1990s, but this is his first attempt at helming an adult-rated puppet film, and for the most part, he did a pretty good job. Sure, it doesn’t break new ground in terms of this type of concept, but as a cliched and simplistic buddy cop comedy, it’s a passable piece of late summer entertainment that’s as fuzzy as an actual puppet. What I meant by that is that at certain points, the film explores some of its timely themes that involve how puppets are being treated by humans, but because of its main focus on making it into a by-the-numbers raunch-fest, its important and relatable message gets overshadowed almost immediately. If you’re going into this film expecting these types of themes, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment. However, if you’re expecting it to be an ordinary R-rated comedy with a decent story, you should be fine. One of the most entertaining aspects of the film is the cast, both human and puppet. Melissa McCarthy was once again enjoyable in her role as Connie Edwards. Her performance in the film was a bit different compared to her other light-hearted comedies, but she still has enough charm and humor to carry the film forward. I also thought Bill Barretta did a very nice job with his performance as Phil Philips, even though his character is not as memorable as his other puppet roles, and his chemistry with McCarthy was quite amusing. As for the humor, it will definitely depend on what kind of mood you’re in. Almost all of the jokes in the film revolved around R-rated language, sex, and puppet stunts, and surprisingly, I found them to be ridiculously funny. I wasn’t expecting myself to laugh that much from beginning to end, but I actually did. It can be a bit much for those who aren’t into these types of comedies, especially the language, and it certainly won’t impress those who prefer smart R-rated comedies, but it does its job in providing some adult puppet humor that’s both idiotic and comical.
Overall, “The Happytime Murders” is not as groundbreaking and timeless as the Muppets or even “Sesame Street”, but it does have its share of entertainment values. The film’s plot does waste an opportunity to fully explore its timely messages due to its amount of buddy cop comedy cliches, but it makes up for it by delivering an enjoyable comedy that’s almost as messed up as watching puppets make porn. As I mentioned before, the film will depend on what type of humor you’re into and on what kind of mood you’re in. If you don’t like adult-rated puppet movies, you’re better off watching the Muppets. Otherwise, it’s worth checking out.