The Happytime Murders review
Movies that take childish ideas like cartoons or kid friendly content and put them in adult, R rated stories have a lot of courage to go against the typical tropes. We just don't see many of these movies as their hard to sell. Though Tedis the one that broke the tradition, stuff like Death to Smoochy, Drop Dead Fred, and Silent Night, Deadly Nighthave resulted in controversy and usually, low box office grossings. Where do they go wrong? It usually meets an odd line where it's intention to remain childish ends up coming out too silly for a mainstream audience to take seriously. Does this mean they need to have a more serious tone? It really depends on a lot of factors.
In the case of todays movie, we have an R rated movies starting Muppets… or because Disney owns that term, puppets. This isn't the first time we've seen this as the musical Avenue Qhad already taken similar puppets and put them into a grittier, more adult world. People seemed to connect with that as even the puppet characters still had personalities that regular, out of college individuals had and could relate to. Lets see if The Happytime Murderscan replicate a similar response.
In a world where humans and puppets coexist, an ex-cop, private detective puppet Phil Phillips (played by Bill Barretta) tries to go about his life and job, even with the discrimination he faces. He receives a client who's receiving threatening letters. When he's lead to a porn shop for names, he just misses a shooting that takes down a former rabbit cast member on an older sitcom, The Happytime Gang. Things are taken a step further when Phil's brother is murdered, also a cast member, shortly after. TO curtail further murder attempts, he's hired to work with his former partner, an LAPD detective, Connie Edwards (played by Melissa McCarthy).
The two don't get along, due to her prejudice, but know they have to remain professional. They go to each surviving cast member of The Happytime Gameincluding it’s only human actor, a burlesque dancer Jenny (played by Elizabeth Banks). The further they go, the more they realize that the killer just might be in front of their eyes and there may be a larger motive involved. Will each side learn to understand each other?
Does a lot of this sound familiar? That's because the idea of a cop and puppet/cartoon/stereotype teaming up had already been done in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There's nothing wrong with using that plot if they can come up with something new…and they don’t. It's just an excuse to see how many times they can get puppets to swear and show having sex. Maybe ten years ago, this would have been shocking, but what we see is no more typical then what I would find on Family Guy, Rick and Morty, and just about anything on Adult Swim. The jokes feel lazy, cheap, and just more shocking then funny.
The characters are also without a paddle. What's weird about this buddy cop set up is that there are two hard-nose personalities. Since they both think similar with their dark perspective on life, there's very little conflict outside of their prejudice. Imagine if the puppet working with the detective had a personality like Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear or even Kermit. That would have been way funnier and developed a bigger conflict for the human. Even so, Melissa McCarthy's character has little reason or rhyme, who is willing to do drugs and sleep on her face like in Bridesmaids, despite how she's trying to play more serious.
Because of this, The Happytime Murdersis boring. Again, I had looked to Who Framed Roger Rabbit as hope the world would be cool to look at. But the Los Angeles here looks exactly like ours…just with puppets looking around. It's clear that its budget was spent on the puppets as you'd think there'd be more history to influence. Yet because of this restriction, it's hard to tell how position of power works between these characters or why there's even prejudice to begin with. Why are puppets second-class citizens? I just don't get much of an answer.
I'll give this two Avenue Qposters out of five. I have to give some credit to Brain Henson (yes, he is a son of the late Jim Henson) who still knows how to do some neat Muppet effects and even show their legs (walking, fighting, driving a car, etc…). I might have laughed a couple of times, but I don't remember why. This is why character is always so important, especially in comedies. If your looking for something adult, skip this and go see Avenue Q instead.