I have seen a lot of hate for this movie, including some people calling this the worst movie of the year. I am not sure what version of this film they were watching because, in my opinion, The Happytime Murders is a decent comedy. It was far better than I was expecting after hearing so much hatred directed towards it.
That does not make this a great movie, because there are definite flaws here, but I spent most of the film being entertained and laughing.
In a world where puppets and humans live together, there was once a children’s television program called The Happytime Gang. Unfortunately, the cast could not handle the sudden success and fell on hard times. Years later, the show was coming back in syndication and the cast was set to make big bucks.
Trouble was, someone started killing the mostly puppet cast members. One of the cast members was Phil Phillips’ brother, Larry. Phil was a current private investigator and a disgraced former police officer, the last puppet allowed to be a police officer. With his brother’s death, Phil got involved in the case, along with his former partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), who had a falling out years prior with Phil over a standoff that went horribly wrong.
The promotion for this movie wanted to make sure that they were clear that this movie, despite having puppets in the starring roles, was not meant for kids. It is a crude, crass film with many sexual and drug jokes. And while I agree this is not for children, The Happytime Murders was not the crudest and most raunchy film I have seen. In fact, I would say, with the exception of a few notable scenes, that the high percentage of The Happytime Murders was more about puppets swearing, puppets smoking or puppets being inappropriate.
In fact, the movie was more of a noir type detective style film, like many of the 1980s films (complete with voice over). I can see this film as being if Who Framed Roger Rabbit met Sausage Party.
The mystery of the murders that was happening was actually reasonably engaging for me as was the enigmatic moment from Phil’s past that, not only cost him his badge, but also any future puppet theirs. I thought Phil ( who was brought to life by legendary puppeteer Bill Barretta) and Melissa McCarthy were great together. I bought everything between the two of them.
The film was pretty funny, but I do think that the funniest parts of the movie had already been released in the trailer. The silly string scene, of course, is the most risque part of the film. Do all of the jokes hit? Absolutely not, but I would say that more that not, the jokes were successful.
The film raises some ideas such as puppets being considered second class citizens and must deal with racism everyday. While the idea was brought up, it was simply never paid off. It was a side that could have elevated the film to more of a satire status instead of a simple buddy cop movie with some dirty jokes. Unfortunately, the racism bit along with most of the movie stayed on the superficial level without going very deep.
Brian Henson, son of EYG Hall of Famer Jim Henson, directed this movie and it was released by HA (which stands for Henson Alternative). You could feel that there are some scenes that Brian wanted to include as a jab at the Muppets, which he could never do this type of movie with. Despite that, the puppeteering is amazing in the film and remains at the top level that any Muppet movie would be proud to include.
You may think that the joke of puppets dropping the F bomb and having sex will get old after awhile, and I can understand why some people may make that criticism. However, I found the story itself interesting enough to keep me invested in what was happening, even if the swearing puppets would not maintain throughout. This type of humor has never been a personal favorite, but I think this was done well enough for me to enjoy it as the story was better than I anticipated. Again, I do not know why this film has gotten so much hatred in the critic corner, but I thought it was a fast and fun 90 minute film.
If you like raunchy humor, there is enough here to scratch that itch. If that type of humor offends you, you may want to skip over The Happytime Murders