Movie Review: "The Happytime Murders" (2018)
I don't know if everyone loves puppets, but I sure as shit do. I grew up on the Muppets and Sesame Street as innocent little lad. Adulthood gave me Meet the Feebles, Crank Yankers, and Team America: World Police. Pardon the pun, but I've always had a soft spot for puppets of both the clean and wildly dirty versions.
The Happytime Murders is set in a world very much ripped from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Humans and puppets share the same space, though the puppets are clearly second class citizens. Puppet P.I. Phil Philips (Bill Baretta, Rowlf from Disney's The Muppets) is a disgraced former cop who takes on the case of a dangerous dame and soon finds himself entangled in a murder plot targeting all of the troupe members (puppet and human alike) of an old show called "The Happytime Gang". It seems he's being framed for this, and he runs afoul of his former human partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy, Brides Maids). The two must begrudgingly reunite to figure out who's knocking off all the puppets.
I was surprised right out of the gate to see that one of the production companies involved was "H.A.", which stands for Henson Alternative. That's right- this is directed by Brian Henson (The Muppet Christmas Carol), son of Jim and Jane Henson! I started getting giddy. The trailer looked damn promising, after all. There's just something about filthy puppets in adult situations that appeals to an 80's kid like me. It also has Elizabeth Banks (Zach and Miri Make a Porno), who's just about the most stunning woman on two legs. Bonus points there.
Sadly, this one plays much more like an improv show without the benefit of that free-form style. Don't get me wrong, it is raunchy. There's silly-string cumshots, for God's sake! The problem isn't the "R-ratedness" of it; it's the lack of consistency and cohesion. Everyone seems to be doing their own style of improv, and it just comes across as very disjointed.
Does that mean it's unfunny? Absolutely not. There are some great bits here. The porn shoot involving the cow and the octopus was a thing of glazed beauty, as was the gaggle of bunnies at the strip club and their obsession with carrots and shitty one-liners. Even more on-point was the great Maya Rudolph (SNL). She steals every scene that she's in with her understated but bighearted secretary, Bubbles. Her interaction with the always manic McCarthy is fun to watch; they make a great pair.
As a feature film, it feels a tad too long (even at a standard 90 minutes). It's simply a buddy cop story told in a very R-rated format using puppets as a metaphor for minorities. I'm not one to bother with analyzing whether or not that is insensitive; I couldn't possibly care less about insensitivity. It's comedy, folks. Get the fuck over it. Don't make more of it than it is.
Simply put, The Happytime Murders is about half as funny as it could've been with some better (i.e. more controlled) joke writing. It's still funny enough to smoke a fatty and chuckle at if that's your plan, but it's no Meet the Feebles. Then again, has any puppet movie ever reached that level?
It was nice to see that Henson name attached, though. Just because we grow up doesn't mean we actually mature, ya' dig?