Film Review: “The Happytime Murders”

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS
Starring:  Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale
Directed by:  Brian Henson
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 31 mins
STX Entertainment

It’s been almost exactly 35 years since I met Jim Henson.

In September 1983 I was at the World Science Fiction Convention in Baltimore, where one of the films being promoted that year was “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”  Knowing Mr. Henson was going to be in attendance I took a couple photos with me.  One of him and Kermit the Frog taken behind the scenes of “The Muppet Movie” and one from “The Dark Crystal.”  I tracked him down and he very graciously signed both.  I got lucky because he happened to be walking around with Gary Kurtz, who produced “The Dark Crystal,” so I got his autograph also.  He was very friendly and, in speaking with him, I could tell he had a great sense of humor.  Which tells me he would love his son’s latest film, “The Happytime Murders.”

(Ominous voice) “In a world where humans and puppets live together….”

Meet Phil Phillips (voiced by Bill Barretta).  He’s a former puppets cop turned private detective.  Actually, he’s been the ONLY puppet cop.  Due to a mishap that led to the killing of an innocent bystander, Phil was fired and a law was put into place forbidding puppets to be police officers.  One day Phil is hired by a mysterious lady-puppet.  His leads take him to an adult bookstore, where he runs into Bumblypants, one of the puppet characters of the popular 80’s kids show “The Happytime Gang.”  As Phil investigates another part of the shop, Bumblypants is murdered.  Soon, other members of the cast are also brutally murdered and the finger points at Phil.  Can he clear his name?  Maybe.

A fun combination of live-action and puppets, “The Happytime Murders” is an outrageously raunchy look at what life may have been like on a certain “Street” if that show had taken place in the worse part of the worse town ever.  In the world of “Happytime” humans and puppets co-exist, though the puppets are often horribly treated.  Call it “Apuppethied.”  Phil’s former police partner, Detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy) is called in to investigate the case and must reluctantly team up with Phil before the entire cast of the show is murdered.  Along the way they must deal with a world full of sex, drugs and violence.  This isn’t your parent’s “Street.”

Let me say this up front (or in the middle):  THIS IS NOT A KIDS MOVIE.  Don’t be fooled by the puppets and the bright lights.  Taking a child to this film will traumatize them for life.  So, again, unless you want to see a puppet re-enactment of Sharon Stone’s famous reveal from “Basic Instinct,” or want to explain to your little one what an eight-armed reach-around is, leave them home.  That being sad, THIS IS AN ADULTS MOVIE.  The jokes are funny, the visuals outrageous and the overall mood of the film will put a smile on your face.  The combination of human and puppet characters is well portrayed, and as the film goes on, you forget your watching puppets.  They become believable characters, which is what you need to make a film work, especially a comedy.  Like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” the melding of human and non-human characters is seamless.  Well, except for the seams on the puppets.  J

Share this article