2 out of 5
If you’ve seen the movie poster for “The Happytime Murders” at the theater or even seen glimpses of the trailer on the internet or TV, you might have thought to yourself, “Well that looks like a fun movie to take the kids to!” Let me just say…You thought wrong! Because if you watch the full trailer or look close enough on the movie poster — you’ll notice it’s a strong rated R. So much so, that at the screening I attended — the host felt compelled to double check with the audience to be sure that everyone there knew what they were in for, and that no children were in the audience. If you saw “Sausage Party” a couple of years back — this movie would make for a great double feature with that one. Looks like a kids / family flick on the outside — but full of blue comedy on the inside. Now that’s not to say the movie is horrible — nor was “Sausage Party,” it’s just to say, if you don’t read this review, or you go into the film not knowing — you’re in for a very big surprise to say the least.
The movie’s premise is simple enough — in fact the premise was so simple that the famed Muppets with Sesame Street filed a lawsuit against the film to stop the way in which it was being marketed (which was later thrown out). It’s just Puppets and Humans living together, side-by-side, as if that’s a normal everyday thing. The big difference in this film and The Muppets, is that these puppets are openly discriminated against, and really considered not to be equal at all to their human counterparts — oh and pretty vulgar. They are made fun of, laughed at and just generally considered useless. One puppet though, tried to be different. Phil Phillips, a blue puppet, who aside from being a puppet would have fit in nicely with the cast of NYPD, is our main character with Melissa McBride, playing his former police partner, Detective Connie Edwards. The reason they are former partners is because Phil was once the first and only puppet to be a cop. He was well on his way to breaking down some big doors, when an accident occurs that gets him fired and basically squashes any chances of puppets ever becoming police officers again. As a result, Phillips is now a Private Investigator, frustrated at what life has become and even more frustrated with the way puppets are perceived. A series of murders, however, thrust him and Edwards back into a reluctant partnership, as puppets from the first human accepted Puppet TV show are being murdered one by one.
I have to say, after watching the trailer and seeing that a lawsuit had been filed against this movie — I was very interested to see what “The Happytime Murders” would bring. There are several very funny, if not questionable scenes in the movie, that will either make you laugh or wonder what in the heck you’re watching (or perhaps both), but for the most part the movie just fell a bit flat for me. McCarthy is one of the funniest actors on the planet — and she didn’t disappoint here. She is great at physical comedy and pretty much any other comedy. What didn’t work was the story’s depth. It is like too little butter being spread over too much bread to borrow a phrase from Bilbo Baggins. There could have been some more meat to things. Instead, the movie’s plot and pacing was similar to a one hour TV show, and truthfully, at 91 minutes runtime — that’s what it kind of felt like we were watching. On the other hand, the puppeteering and special effects that you get a small glimpse of during the credits, are quite amazing. I’ve read that entire sets were built 4 feet off the ground to accommodate the puppets, and they show during the credits what it took to make some of the scenes work. With that though, I couldn’t help but wonder if that just the sheer degree of difficulty in making the movie could have accounted for the truncated story. Who knows? At the end of the day, it’s a movie with puppets in it. It’s funny, shocking to some degree, and while it won’t win any big time awards — it does make for an entertaining hour and a half at the theater. Again, if you liked “Sausage Party,” this will fit your sense of humor just fine.
“The Happytime Murders” is now showing, and is rated R for strong crude and sexual content and language throughout, and some drug material.