The Happytime Murders Movie Review
So, The Happytime Murders, an R-rated Muppet—sorry, puppet film by Jim Henson’s son—is a thing. It exists. It’s unfortunately about what you’d expect, a sometimes-funny, mostly one-note comedy that seems to exist simply because Jim Henson’s son wanted to make a movie about muppets jizzing all over.
Starring Melissa McCarthy as a police officer who partners with a blue and fuzzy private detective with a smoking problem to investigate a series of puppet murders, The Happytime Murders delves into the seedy underbelly of a Los Angeles where humans and puppets (my team of lawyers have instructed me I can’t use the word Muppets, but fuck I just said Muppets and fuck it I said it again) co-exist, though puppets are largely seen as second-class citizens.
The concept is fantastic, the Muppet (fucking lawyers, fuck you) version of Roger Rabbit, but like so many comedies—and especially like so many Melissa McCarthy comedies—it’s an empty concept. The Happytime Murders has plenty of f-bombs, exploding puppet heads and even a graphic sex scene, but the shtick only works for so long before it runs out of silly string. Some of the sexual humor is funny but very little of it, or the movie itself, has the shock value Henson was aiming for. The Farrelly brothers did the same thing and better 25 years ago, and they didn’t need puppets to make it work; in 2018, The Happytime Murders primarily evokes a big, fuzzy shrug.
McCarthy is pretty decent paired against Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta)—their banter is amusing, even if again the humor relies primarily on them shouting “fuck you” at each other and “assholes say ‘what’” to Joel McHale. But the screenplay by Todd Berger focuses on the wrong things, often losing sight of the fact that audiences are going to pay their good money for one reason: to see puppets doing bad things.
Instead, The Happytime Murders focuses too narrowly on its noir murder mystery plot. It’s not a terrible plot, but here’s a secret: no one cares. Again, people want to see this movie for one damned reason, and that is to see puppets doing bad things.
Aside from a fuzzy porn shop and a silly string-filled sex scene, the movie doesn’t deliver much in the way of clever gags. After the first 30 minutes, the movie loses sight of its best attributes.
The Happytime Murders has its moments, but it needed to be a lot better to get my silly string off.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.