The Happytime Murders: Review
Do you find the idea of puppets having sex hilarious? How about puppets doing drugs or excessively drinking? Then boy is The Happytime Murders the right movie for you.
The Happytime Murders is an old school detective “who done it” style film, but with puppets. The film follows a disgraced puppet cop turned private eye named Phil Phillips as he attempts to uncover who is murdering the primarily puppet cast of a once beloved TV show, The Happytime Gang. But with puppets. Phil is forced to work with his former partner and actual Human/detective, Connie Edwards (Melisa McCarthy) along the way. But with puppets.
At its’ core The Happytime Murders really is just an old school detective film wrapped in a dark comedy. But with puppets (last one). The comedy part of things is a bit up for debate however. For the most part the film rests on the fact that puppets doing crude things humans do (drink, do drugs, have sex, etc.) is funny. There’s often no other joke being told, rather we are supposed to be busting at the seams at the absurdity of it all. People are just doing things they might do. But with puppets (no really, this is the last one). Rarely do the jokes or humor go beyond that simple concept. What little humor that is to be found from this early on is quickly subdued as the film spends a lot of time also trying to paint the puppets as real characters. It should do this as it helps to build the world and make it believable but the downside is that the cheap laughs stop being cheap and stop being funny very quickly. Looked at purely as a comedy, Happytime Murders is a disappointing film.
Where things are interesting is when this universe is explored in greater detail and there is some actual world building. One idea within the film is that puppets are often addicted to sugar/sugary substances. Snorting forms of sugar as a coke like drug or drinking maple syrup rather than alcohol. An addiction that even drives many puppets to prostitution. Edwards, having a puppet liver transplant (don’t ask cause the movie doesn’t ever explain how this works either), is also susceptible to sugar addiction. This leads to some of the best humor and situations in the entire film (though actual running gags based on this fictional puppet filled world are few and far between).
Puppets are also treated like 2nd class citizens in this world. The Happytime Gang, for example, is most notable for having been the first TV show to feature a “mixed cast” of humans and puppets. While this could have been used as an interesting, maybe even fun (yes, fun) way to talk about race relations, it’s mostly just used as a vehicle to make puppet slurs. The nature of sexual relationships in this world also gets very interesting, in a very weird way. It’s an interesting look at just how weird sexuality would get in a world also inhabited by sentient puppets who are also equally likely to have fetishes of their own. Again though, this is mostly played for a couple of cheap jokes and then largely left untouched. Poor choice of words, I know.
The Happytime Murders is not a bad movie. That needs to be stated. It is however a victim of its own potential. Happytime Murders isn’t so much bad as it is disappointing; which if you’ve ever had your mom say she “wasn’t mad, just disappointed,” you know that is sometimes worse. The entirety of the film’s run time you find yourself constantly thinking, “This should be better than it is,” and that is the biggest fault of the film. Not for what it is but what it could have been. In the end the film best viewed as a serviceable detective movie rather than the raunchy dark comedy it clearly set out to be.
Final Rating: 5.5/10
GoG Break Down:
How it was viewed: Theater
Running time: 1hr 31m
Recommend viewing: Netflix or similar
Why you should see it: The puppetry really is something else, making me really want to see a revival of puppets in film.
Why you shouldn’t see it: You’ve watched any Adult Swim in the last couple of weeks and have had enough dick jokes to last you a while.