Movie Review: The Happytime Murders
This weekend saw the premiere of the R-rated puppet crime comedy, The Happytime Murders. Directed by Brian Henson and written by Todd Berger, the film takes place in a world where puppets and humans coexist but puppets are considered inferior. The story itself follows a private detective, Phil Phillips, who is dragged into a murder case with his former partner, Detective Edwards. The film stars Melissa McCarthy as Detective Edwards and Bill Barretta as the puppeteer for Phillips. The supporting cast also includes Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie David Baker, and quite a few puppeteers.
The film begins with private detective Phil Phillips driving around Los Angeles. As he drives, he explains the rules of this world where puppets live alongside humans but are considered inferior. He explains where he works and the cases that typically come his way. His human secretary, Bubbles, is introduced and informs him he has a new client. His new puppet client, Sandra, hires Phil to find out who is blackmailing her. In the midst of his investigation, Phil soon finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation with his old partner involving a character from a beloved television show.
Initially, this was a movie concept that I found intriguing. Whenever it was described as a puppet murder mystery and comedy, I thought it could be an entertaining concept, especially once Melissa McCarthy was cast as one of the human leads. However, I found this movie to be fairly lackluster. The first trailer was inappropriately funny, but outside of those funny moments featured in the trailer, I thought a lot of the jokes fell flat. There were a fair amount of moments added for shock factor, but those moments aren’t necessarily funny. Honestly, I cannot pinpoint exactly what went wrong with this film, but the comedy not landing contributes greatly to its less than stellar reviews.
On the positive side of things, this film did have a fuller story than what I was expecting. The filmmakers go to great lengths to establish a history between Phillips and Detective Edwards, and the story set-up there worked. Outside of that, though, the story did not live up to expectations. There was more depth than what I was expecting, but it was also fairly predictable. I figured out the culprit behind the murders within the first thirty minutes, and I was not surprised by any of the intended twists and turns. Also, there were not many performances that truly stood out from the film. Leslie David Baker as the police lieutenant worked after many years of enjoying The Office, and Joel McHale’s FBI officer had a couple of laughable moments. I think that Maya Rudolph was probably the most entertaining human character of the film, but she did not have a lot of screen time in comparison to most of the other characters.
All in all, I’m writing a shorter review for The Happytime Murders because it is probably among my least favorite films of the year. I think this movie had a lot of potential with its clever tagline and unique approach to a puppet movie, but it just did not live up to the hype. The comedy was not as prominent or funny as I had hoped, and I honestly did not find it that entertaining. I cannot bring myself to recommend this one for a watch in theater, but if you still find yourself wanting to give The Happytime Murders a watch, keep in mind that this is not a family film. It may contain puppets, but this movie is not appropriate for children at all.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.