the happytime murders
DIRECTOR: brian henson (the muppet christmas carol)
starring: melissa mccarthy, elizabeth banks, maya rudolph, and jole mchale
REVIEWER: purdie jenkins
In the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, two clashing detectives -- one human and the other a puppet - must work together to solve the brutal murders of former cast members of a beloved puppet TV show.
Ex-cop turned PI, Phil Philips, is a gritty puppet living in a world where humans hate his kind unless they are performing. He’s been roped in on a case with his ex-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to investigate a series of puppet murders.
The plot is incredibly familiar, and the characters we have seen before (although, not in blue velvet); the femme fatale, the doting assistant, the chain smoking cop, the incompetent FBI agent, the hardass lieutenant; you know how this story is going to play out before it really even starts. Maybe it’s this familiarity that helps you to stomach the illicit puppet behaviour, the drugs, the sex scene and a moment early in the film involving a cow and an octopus.
It’s worth mentioning that the puppets look familiar because the film is made by Jim Henson’s son, Brian Henson, under the Henson Alternative production company. It’s not a far fetched idea that Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy might live in the same world as Phil Philips, after all he is based in the seedy underbelly of LA, whether that ruins your childhood memories of them though is up to you.
Melissa McCarthy is growing a bit dull, in the sense that you know her comedy style, and you know what jokes are going to be made. There is the quip about her size, her ‘manish’ appearance, being a bit of a loser, her impressive agility. Which makes the jokes fall flat more often than not because you’ve seen them before, actually quite a few times now. She doesn’t really bring anything new even working with puppets.
With a full audience the jokes might land better but there isn’t much worse than a silent theatre watching a comedy. And while there is great potential for some racial commentary with the tension of puppets/humans, like Bright (the Will Smith buddy cop film where he teams up with an Orc), it doesn’t quite have any impact. Overall, you feel like it never quite reached it’s potential.
The Happytime Murders is a strange mix of Who Framed Roger Rabbit meets Team America but without the solid staying power of either.