I’ve seen thousands of films during my life, but few have proven to be as offbeat as “The Happytime Murders.” This comedy isn’t exactly a laugh a minute good time, nor is it a total miss as a straightforward crime drama. I guess if you are curious about raunchy and graphic puppet sex, then this might be just the movie for you.
In what I’d describe as a “filthy Muppet movie,” the comedy takes place in the seedy underbelly of present-day Los Angeles. Puppets and humans coexist, but there’s a general bigotry between the two groups. When a series of brutal murders erupt across town, former police partners Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) must reunite to solve the crimes. The two clash and butt heads as one is made of flesh and the other felt, but they eventually work together to crack the case. Everything about this movie sounds funny (even the title inspires snickers) and it should’ve (and could’ve) been a slam dunk. Unfortunately, it’s not.
McCarthy, whose comedic talent is wasted yet again, brings considerable enjoyment to the project as its brightest element. She plays her detective role completely deadpan, and you’ll never know that she’s acting with a puppet rather than a human co-star. Barretta gives a fitting voice performance that complements his gritty and grizzled character, and Maya Rudolph and Elizabeth Banks turn up in memorable supporting roles.
The cutting edge premise is mostly squandered in favor of cheap gags and scenes featuring crude sexual content that seem to exist solely as a method to push buttons. This could’ve been a lot funnier (and a lot more socially relevant) if writer Todd Berger had chosen instead to focus on character development over cussing and lazy one-liners about drug abuse or barbs about masculine-looking women. It’s not exactly smart entertainment so as far as bawdy puppet movies go, this one ranks well below “Team America: World Police.”
“The Happytime Murders” may be demented in its off-color wisecracks, but this is not a terrible movie — although it will prove to be an acquired taste for most. (Parents, this film is in no way affiliated with traditional muppets, so use some common sense and leave the kids at home for this one).