The Happytime Murders – 2 out of 5
Sometimes people equate what constitutes adult entertainment with a rating. I see people complain all the time that Marvel isn’t catering to adults because they make PG-13 movies and that instantly makes them “kids’ stuff” somehow. Never mind the fact their tales have drama and morals that pretty much any demographic can relate to but there are people who like to show what big boys they are and they do that by watching R-rated movies. For some reason, hearing swear words, seeing graphic violence and partaking in nudity means they’re more adult than other people. If that’s all it takes to make a person happy, more power to them but I need some substance with the F-bombs, boobs and blood. The Happytime Murders might be enough for guys who crave seeing puppets have sex but, for me, the film was a dead horse joke that feels more like an exploration of what a 13 year old thinks is adult entertainment than something that is actually catering to the adult sensibilities.
|A down-on-his-luck private investigator...but in puppet form.|
Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is a disgraced puppet police officer who is trying to earn a living as a private investigator. He is hired by another puppet named Sandra (Dorien Davies) to find out who is blackmailing her and the investigation leads to a string of murders. Someone is killing the cast members of an old 90s sitcom called “The Happytime Gang” and Phil reluctantly agrees to team-up with his old partner; Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy). However, it’s not long before the trail of bodies leads to Phillips and he becomes the primary suspect.
|I absolutely adore McCarthy but sometimes she attaches herself to comedies|
that aren't worthy of her talent.
If I was 14, I probably would have liked The Happytime Murders more but since I’m nearing 40 putting puppets in sexual situations, hearing them say “fuck,” seeing them do drugs and having a plot point that literally revolves around a puppet’s vagina isn’t enough for me. As a preteen (and probably all the way into my late-teens) this would have made me giggle because it would have felt so forbidden but as an adult, this whole movie just felt juvenile. Immature humor is not something I'm above but there is definitely an art to it. Just throwing puppets into sexual and ultra-violent scenarios just felt lazy and like it was going for the bottom of the barrel gags. It’s like when something tries so hard to be mature and gritty that it ends up feeling childish, that was my experience with this film. It doesn't help matters that this film is basically just repeating this very narrow formula and it doesn't get better the more times you see it.
|In case you're curious, you see this puppet's vagina.|
|Is Michael McDonald good friends with McCarthy?|
He always shows up in her films.
There are some things that work very well, however, in The Happytime Murders. I found most of the jokes got an eye-roll from me but there are definitely times that I found the gags and humor to be amusing. Additionally, the performances from the human actors are excellent. Finally, the puppeteering in the film is truly astounding and absolutely impressive. The material of the story and humor aside, the way they integrated the puppets really helped build the world and make it believable. They also did movements and character interactions I haven’t previously seen before in the world of puppets and it was extremely impressive. This work alone was so outstanding that it nearly singlehandedly made me give the film a middle-of-the-road score of 3 out of 5. However, as great as this aspect is, it isn’t good enough to erase just how unfunny and mediocre I found this viewing experience.
|Okay, I will concede that the film having dogs as weapons against puppets because|
they look like chew toys is a funny idea.
|And if you are familiar with No, You Shut Up!, you'll|
recognize this puppet here.
The real killer for the film for me was I just didn’t find it funny. I’ve seen adult puppet projects work in the past (No, You Shut Up!) and I’ve seen ones that I liked when I was younger and found they didn’t age well when I watched it as an adult (Meet the Feebles) but The Happytime Murders was one that I felt didn’t work from the get-go. It has its moments but too often the humor feels like it is solely relying on the fact that the events you are seeing is being perpetrated to or done by puppets and too often in this film that wasn’t enough. To put it simply, a majority of the gags in the film felt like the punchline was just, “It’s a puppet doing it.” Here’s an orgasm joke…but it’s a puppet doing it. Here’s a joke about a crackhead ready to exchange sexual favors for drugs…but it’s a puppet doing it. It feels repetitive and never felt like it was enough to carry a joke on, let alone an entire movie. Too often the jokes and gags rely on puppets doing indecent things and not enough of them are jokes and gags inspired and derived from the plot and story. This gives the humor the feeling of beating a dead horse and why I feel the film feels childish rather than funny with its immaturity.
|Honestly, the best joke of the film for me didn't even involve puppets. It was Connie|
leaving her job and saying how she should have had sex with this man...
McCarthy's real-life husband.
The Happytime Murders, from a technical standpoint in its puppetry, is astounding and really an amazing feat. Sadly, though, I didn’t find it funny and it made for an experience that was kinda boring and broken only by moments of occasion chuckles and times of awe as I was amazed by the puppet work. Ron in Middle School would have found this film hilarious because there are puppets buying porn and doing drugs in this film but Ron in his late 30s finds this piece of entertainment soulless and lazy, not even good enough to be mindless comedy that's nothing but fluff and yet still good for a laugh.