Thumbs up or thumbs down? Simple, spoiler free reviews.
In a world where puppets and humans cohabit, The Happytime Murders is set in the underbelly of Los Angeles. Two former police partners, one human and the other a puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the cast of a beloved classic television show.
I was hesitantly interested, but not particularly hopeful, about The Happytime Murders. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a huge soft spot for all things Muppet based. I grew up watching Sesame Street, I’ve watched the original Muppet Show DVDs and I love the films (Especially The Muppets Christmas Carol, which I REVIEWED HERE… cheap plug, cheap plug, cheap plug). So I was curious to know what a darker version could look like. Oddly, this is directed by Brian Henson, son of THE Jim Henson so I thought it was in relatively safe hands. Even if the company behind Sesame Street sued the film for the tag line of ‘No Sesame. All Street’ and the damages it could cause the brand.
I was wrong. I was right to be hesitant. The Happytime Murders, simply put just isn’t very good. While I didn’t hate it and at times it did even make me laugh, but it’s a disappointment. I wouldn’t watch it again and I wouldn’t recommend it to other people.
Most of the problems come from the writing or lack thereof. You see, after the novelty of seeing sleazy puppets in a world full of weird sex, copious amount of drugs and violence wears off. After seeing a puppet buying puppet porn in a back alley shop or a drugged up puppet offering sexual services what you are left with is bad jokes, bickering insults and everyone shouting and swearing. Honestly it’s as if the writers though saying fuck alone would get a laugh. It’s not enough! You’ve created this grizzly, disgusting world for our characters to walk around in, in which you’ve equated the way puppets are treated to racism, but you give them nothing interesting to say. It’s a waste. It’s as if the writers just thought to themselves, what can’t they do and say in The Muppets? And when they all shouted ‘Sex! Drugs! Swearing!’ at each other, they then threw those ideas in a dustbin, shook it for a minute and proclaimed the script done. There is absolutely nothing clever about this film.
What I assume the makers were going for was for The Happytime Murders to be the cool, sexy adult version of the classic kids shows. Taking a world we know to be wholesome and pure, then flipping it on its head and making you think “holy heck I can’t believe that happened. They can’t do that! What about poor Kermit!” Etc etc. In the end it’s just silly string ejaculations and swearing. I’m not complaining that its crass, I’m fine with that. I’m complaining that’s all there is.
I do think that if you are a bigger Melissa McCarthy fan than I am, as I’m rather indifferent, then you will probably enjoy this film a lot more than me. It was all of the classic McCarthy mannerisms and shtick such as her being insulted about her appearance or called a man. She’s game for it though and is probably one of the better aspects of the movie. I did enjoy the character of down of his luck Private Investigator Phil Phillips and I enjoyed his noir style narration at the start of the movie, although this is quickly forgotten. His flawed character and redemption arc I did enjoy. In fact buddy cop aspect of the movie is quite interesting. You’ve got the back story, flimsy albeit, that a once successful detective duo of puppet cop and human cop now can’t stand each other and have to work together to solve the case. It’s a simple premise and has been successful in countless other films. However, the two main characters spend the majority of the film swearing and insulting one another. It grows tiresome and seems to be in place instead of any actually development or comedy.
I have to summarise The Happytime Murders as a film with lots of potential but very poor execution. If you wanted to watch puppets that riffs on old kids shows and pushes boundaries in acceptability, there are better options out there. Avenue Q for example, or even Team America.