Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Brian Henson
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: No Sesame. All Street. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is a filthy comedy set in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles where puppets and humans coexist. Two clashing detectives with a shared secret, one human (Melissa McCarthy) and one puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the former cast of a beloved classic puppet television show.
I have to admit, this is one of the films that based solely on the promotional material, intrigued me the most this summer. R-rated comedies with the types of elements usually found in movies aimed at a younger audience are pretty rare, but thanks to the emergence of films like Deadpool, I would expect to see more of them in the future. With such a unique premise, this is the type of movie that as long as there a few good laughs, should be good enough to see with friends. Sadly, after the shock factor that you see in the first half, the film transitions into another boring, bland, story that is funny enough to watch but will not stand out in the genre.
The film follows Phil Phillips (voiced by Bill Barretta), puppet who is a private investigator after an incident got him removed from the Los Angeles Police Department. When his most recent investigation uncovers a string of murders related to the cast of The HappyTime Gang, Phil must team up with his old partner Connie Edwards (McCarthy) to stop any other cast members from getting killed and find out the person responsible. The main thing that stands out about the movie is just how interesting and original the premise is. The first thing I thought of during the exposition is how similar this movie is to a movie like Zootopia. While The HappyTime Murders is far more blunt with the premise, both of these films deal with the deep, societal issue of othering and showcase it either through how they lesser characters (puppets or herbivores), are treated by citizens who are deemed superior (humans or carnivores). While Zootopia is clearly a work of fiction that has elements of the real world sprinkled throughout it, The Happytime Murders paints a pretty realistic picture of what puppets would be treated like if they actually existed in our society. It was raw, crude, but most importantly it was accurate. Outside of the premise, the first third of the movie wastes no time showing us shocking scenes from the puppet world. Many of these scenes could be seen as graphic for the sake of being graphic, but in a movie as ridiculous as this, scenes like these are within the boundaries of the universe and really funny when they come out of nowhere like that. After the first act though, the film takes a severe dive in quality. The plot becomes a very standard hero’s journey and the jokes are very par for the course. I never felt as if there was ever a real sense of tension as the plot started to wrap up and many characters outside of the leads just seemed to exist for the sake of existing instead of trying to be their own individuals. I know movies like this are not exactly known for their character and plot development, but the fact that the first act showed that there was some real substance to this movie and fails to expand upon it more is a little disappointing.
Overall, The HappyTime Murders is a perfectly fine comedy to stream in your free time, but outside of that the film is nothing special. This could have been one of the most original, entertaining, and funny comedies of the year based on what the setup of this movie looked like, but the film never develops upon itself or expands on anything that could have made it interesting. Had the movie explored the depths at which the divide between humans and puppets existed and used both humor and sympathy to show us the impact that this divide has on society, then I think we could have had something pretty special here. Instead, The HappyTime Murders will go down as a forgettable comedy that you can use to kill some time when you are bored at home.
Overall Score: 4/10