“You don’t have to sing and dance for the man anymore.”
Taking place in a world where humans and puppets co-exist (as second class citizens that is), Brian Henson’s The Happytime Murders is a raunchy, inappropriate and hilarious mix of sex, drugs, and murder…all at the hands of puppets.
Centered around the often times exhausting relationship between Melissa McCarthy’s Detective Connie Edwards and puppet Phil Philips, the film works aimlessly to accomplish its one large directive: shock and awe. And though it is successful ninety percent of the time, its hard to accredit the film for it's over the top antics and downright filthy behavior when, in reality, it likely would have served better as an SNL short or HBO comedy special.
Bill Barretta’s Phil Philips provides the voiceover through the film. A disgraced former LAPD detective turned private-eye, Philips has a reputation amongst his former human counterparts. As the puppet cast of a popular ‘80s children’s television show begins to get murdered in volatile fashion, he finds himself returning to work for the man in an effort to save his own kind.
The Happytime Murders, for all its glitz and glamour, is one of the smartest comedies to hit theaters this year. Full of hidden messages, double entendres, and Easter eggs, the film lays its jokes on thick and rejoices at the inappropriateness of them. Though the result will have you laughing uncontrollably for the first half hour, the gimmick will have unfortunately run its course by then, leaving you tired, moody and a bit grumpy as it limps its way to the finish line, complete with nearly every murder mystery cliché known to man - including an iconic Basic Instincts reference that you have to see to believe.
Myra Rudolph and Elizabeth Banks work fine as supporting players, but their limited screen time prevents them from making any real impact to the over all story - Banks’ Jenny gets one scene at a strip club that is equally random and awkward, thus begging the question of just how she found herself associated with such a ridiculous character in such a frustrating film. Rudolph’s Bubbles proves the same as her whimsical approach to the situation at hand is beyond irritating.
As the film enters its third act and you begin to realize that the end is near, you can’t help but feel relieved that this funny-turned-gruesome stunt wasn’t stretched out into a full two-hour marathon. I still fear a potential sequel coming, as there are likely countless ideas of murder, mayhem and hooker jokes, but it must be realized that The Happytime Murders is great until it isn’t; a near flawless concept that is broken down into a bare display of its ruthless parts - ones that even the talent of Melissa McCarthy (and a rather perfect cameo from husband Ben Falcone) cannot right. And that, sadly enough, is saying a lot.