The Happytime Murders
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolf, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie David Baker, Joel McHale
Brian Henson is the son of The Muppets creator Jim Henson and directed previous Muppet films Muppet Treasure Island and The Muppet Christmas Carol. The Happytime Murders is a lot like Who Framed Roger Rabbit but with a hard R-rating. It almost feels like Henson’s 12-year-old self is rebelling against his father and their legacy. What might look like a filthy Muppet detective story is actually just another stereotypical Melissa McCarthy (Life of the Party) movie in disguise. The direction this movie mess takes isn’t funny or even entertaining. Adults (at least not mature ones) won’t find much to enjoy here because it’s not even slightly creative. Thus, the only patrons it might appeal to are not old enough to buy a ticket.
“It’s their world, we just live in it,” disgraced Los Angeles detective turned private eye Phil Philips explains. He is a puppet, like half the population and is discriminated against just because he is made of felt. He stumbles into a case where someone is brutally murdering the former members of an 80’s Muppet show one by one. Philips reteams with ex-partner Detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy) who has a puppet liver thanks to her partners bad aim years ago. They try to visit each cast member, whom have all fallen far from grace, but they are always too late. Philips is the only person present at every crime scene, becoming the de facto suspect.
For McCarthy’s part she does the usual prat falls, silly voices, continuing to over compensate for her lack of artistic ambition.
Vulgarity is such a saturated construct in comedies these days, writers think simply having puppets, or kids or anything unusual using profanity will be instantly funny. The Happytime Murders takes that further with sex jokes and practices all involving Muppets and there is little creativity behind the elementary obscenity. It plays more like twisted teenage fan fiction that creative comedy. In one scene where Philips “services” a female Muppet client in his office, silly string is used to represent the male orgasm and it’s a joke that’s milked for far too long. The production spends far more time on gag-like scenarios than it does trying to keep the murder mystery plot of the narrative engaging.
For McCarthy’s part she does the usual prat falls, silly voices, continuing to over compensate for her lack of artistic ambition. You could replace Sandra Bullock in The Heat with a Muppet and you essentially have The Happytime Murders. Maya Rudolf (Life of the Party) who is consistently underrated and underserved with supporting parts plays Philips doting secretary (think Janine in Ghostbusters). Banks and McHale also continue to fill stereotypes and these performances feel like favors and paychecks. It’s Sesame Street that might have the last laugh and shouldn’t waste their time or energy on a lawsuit towards something as forgettable as this.
Feels like the work of a bored pre-teen creating perverted fanfiction.