HomeMoviesThe Happytime Murders Review : Fun But Not for Everyone

The Happytime Murders Review : Fun But Not for Everyone

Happytime Murders
Photo Credit: Hopper Stone; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

The moment I heard about The Happytime Murders, I thought it was either going to be the comedy of the summer, or a candidate for the worst movie of the year. Once the promotional material was released and I realized we were getting a raunchy noir film centered around what happens when the likes of Sesame Street and The Muppets go off the air, I was hooked. Still, comedy is a highly subjective genre; what if they showed all the highlights in the trailers? I’m happy to announce that is not the case. The Happytime Murders may not be the high bar of comedy, but it is still a very funny film.

We follow Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta), a puppet private eye (P.P.I.?), struggling in a world occupied by both humans and puppets. He’s a foul-mouthed drunk, attempting to solve an extortion case. When puppets start getting murdered, namely those of the famed Happytime Gang, Phil must reconcile with his ex-partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), who got him fired from the L.A.P.D. Together, they must battle puppet drug dealers, inbred puppets, puppet drugs and a variety of other puppet-related oddities.

To say The Happytime Murders isn’t funny would be a lie. I found myself heartily laughing at many of the jokes and sight gags. With that said, this film is crude and disgusting, relying heavily on sex jokes, violence and the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. It’s not too far off from what you would find in a gritty cop thriller, but sprinkling in puppets exploding in the place of gunfights.

It takes a tired trope, making it familiar but fresh. Unfortunately, this film will not be for everyone. You will, I repeat, WILL, need a very dark and crude sense of humor to find a lot of the jokes funny, including two full scenes of puppets partaking in some hardcore sex. Team America may have used this technique some fourteen years earlier but the, ahem, realism of these scenes makes it both ridiculous and disgusting.

About halfway through the film, many may feel the novelty of dysfunctional puppets may lose its edge. When this happens, you are left with the characters and plot to hold up the rest of the film. Thankfully, this is done with expert craftsmanship by the filmmaker, Brian Henson (Jim Henson’s son). He crafts very interesting characters, from the hard-nosed, down on his luck Phillips, to the rude and out of her element Edwards. McCarthy is great (and I rarely admit that) here, toning down her absurdity just enough to be absurd. Maya Rudolph is laughably awkward as Bubbles, Phillips’ bubbly secretary and each puppet from the gang has a unique personality that fits right into this world Henson has created.

Not to be overshadowed by the insane premise of the film, Happytime is also a social allegory for racism. Puppets are treated like garbage, hassled by the police and shunned from establishments. Many humans say they can’t tell the difference between blue puppets and the word “fluffer” is very much a stand-in for a certain racially insensitive word. Netflix’s Bright may have gotten to this premise of racial tensions in the police force amongst different species last year, but Happytime handles it in a more genuine way.

The film does suffer at times, however. While all of the characters are interesting, they could have used more screen time. The majority of it is chewed up by Phillips and Edwards, but I really wanted to learn more about Phil’s brother, Larry, or Goofer (the Animal of the gang) and Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), the only human of the gang. A small amount of the comedy also does not land, which is to be expected. Not everyone is going to laugh at every joke, but some jokes seem out of left field, especially a joke about rice pilaf.

The Happytime Murders is a fun, raunchy time at the movies. I don’t see its replay value being very high, but you’ll get a kick out of watching sexually active, drug ridden puppets doing their thing, while also watching a buddy cop/neo-noir/racial allegory piece of art. This film will not be for everyone, especially those who get offended easily, but if you want a good time in the pits of the summer movie season known as August, give this one a shot.

Rating: 8/10

The Happytime Murders is now playing theaters everywhere.


Most Recent

Stay Connected