Every now and then, a trailer comes along and from the moment you first view it you just… know.
Well, I knew that “The Happytime Murders” was going to be stupid as fuck and I was not wrong. This film was remarkable in that I had never been more certain that I was not going to enjoy something. I actually dreaded my screening of this film. None of you can say that I didn’t give it a chance. So there.
It’s sad, really. “The Happytime Murders” had an opportunity to do something really unique. Puppets in mainstream film is a fairly original thing. Making those puppets naughty is even more so. Setting naughty puppets in a gritty noir story should have been damn interesting. Should have been. It’s even sadder when you consider that this story and the concept art for it has been floating around out there for years.
“The Happytime Murders” is directed by Brian Henson and written by Todd Berger. The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, and Maya Rudolph (what are you doing here, honey?), along with a colorful cast of puppets.
When the puppet cast of a 1990s TV show begin to get picked off one at a time, two former partners must put aside their prejudices and take the case. One is a human officer struggling with her own inherent bias against puppets (McCarthy) and the other is a disgraced former puppet LAPD officer turned private investigator.
First things first: nasty puppets have been done before. In fact, it was done on snooty ole Broadway. “Avenue Q” had all the fuckin’ and suckin’ and puppetin’ that “The Happytime Murders” had and did it WAY better.
The thing about “The Happytime Murders” is that, oftentimes, it was vulgarity for the sake of vulgarity. The shocking sexual images had no real purpose other than to pause the movie, gross you out, and then allow the movie to continue. I’m no prude and enjoy raunchy humor but here’s the deal with humor… it has to be funny.
“The Happytime Murders” was painfully unfunny and, for the most part, downright uncomfortable.
Beyond missing the mark on humor, “The Happytime Murders” was just poorly done. The story was contrived, the twist predictable, the plot improbable and inconsistent, and the “messaging” as heavy-handed as Cookie Monster on tranquilizers. It just… wasn’t good. It wasn’t a good noir. It wasn’t a good comedy. It wasn’t an interesting story. It wasn’t a decent mystery. All the potential of this movie leaked out and scattered, like the stuffing out of a puppet torn apart by a chihuahua.
I can offer only two praises to “The Happytime Murders”:
- It is cool to see puppets on the big screen. It is cool to see puppet work done well. I am sad to see that it was wasted here.
- This was actually a decent Melissa McCarthy performance. Shockingly, she was the subdued one in this fucked up universe. I am sad to see that a good performance from her will be soiled by the mess that is the rest of the movie.
My verdict: I give “The Happytime Murders” a soft rental. A barely rental. If you have even the slightest doubt in your mind, go with your gut and skip this one. If you have literally nothing better to do or if you have the sense of humor of a sixth-grade boy, knock yourself out when it comes to streaming.
“The Happytime Murders” is in theaters now!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.