REVIEW: The Happytime Murders

1 Star

Have you ever looked forward to something so much that when you finally get it, it’s a disappointment?

I go through that every day. Not because I’m excited, but because I am such a disappointment. That’s not even self-deprecatory; people tell me I’m disappointing every day.

And yet I was most letdown by The Happytime Murders; a comedy-crime film which merged reality with puppets, and was even directed by Brian Henson, son of iconic puppeteer Jim Henson. So next time, Dad, you think I’m a failure, watch what Brian did to his father’s legacy. Okay, DaAaAaD?!

Sorry. There was clearly some built-up, inner aggression stored away.

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As soon as I saw the trailer’s incredible tagline, “No Sesame. All Street”, I thought this would be a movie for me. After all, I’d spent several months working on a screenplay very similar – about two roommates, one of whom is human, and one who was a crass puppet. Although, the only difference is, mine was actually going to be a comedy. Of course, the trailer was going to cut some of it’s most gruesome, rude moments from the film, to entice viewers, in just a short minute period. However, the full runtime of The Happytime Murders isn’t much different. Every gag is based around sex, drugs or swearing; there’s nothing else to it. Jokes are a bit one-note, and it tries too hard to gross-out audiences. Of course, the only ‘clean’ gags were about as obvious as a frisbee to the face* – such as Joel McHale (a comedy actor who was given zero chance to be comedic) saying “What?” every time someone said “Losers say ‘what'”. I’m angered because The Happytime Murders may have stolen my idea for a screenplay, but now they’re stealing jokes from me from when I was six?! This is just nasty man.

Speaking of – if you want a frisbee joke, have this one: I wondered why the frisbee was getting bigger… And then it hit me. And there wasn’t a mention of cocaine in that at all. See. That’s how you do it, The Happytime Murders.

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In terms of a plot, this – and I quote – “comedy”, seems to get itself confused. Set in Los Angeles, where humans and puppets coexist, the puppets are treated as second-class citizens; often abused and beaten by humans. This isn’t explained. Maybe it was just a lazy attempt to say “Hey. I’ve just seen Roger Rabbit. Maybe we could do that, but erm… Instead of cartoons, we’ll have puppets. No-one will know”. Weirdly, a lot of them actually saw success, so there was no need to look down on them – with the focus being around the puppet cast of a hugely popular 90s TV show, being murdered. Of course, when the show was cancelled, all of the cast went to drugs, gangs and prostitution. All we need is incest and you have the holy quadrilogy of things that aren’t actually that funny, and… Oh. The Happytime Murders did that, did it? Good.

Much like the unnecessary abuse towards puppets, it just seems like the director – whose name I shall not utter, at risk of upsetting the legendary Jim Henson – just threw moments in there because he thought it might be funny-ish. Sugar was treated as a class-A drug, which – as a Type 1 diabetic – I had no qualms with, but why? It’s set in modern day LA. I understand puppets live with us, but why is sugar now a narcotic? Parodying every cop in movies ever, Melissa McCarthy’s Connie Edwards would come home and instead of pouring herself a glass of whiskey, would drink a glass of syrup. Why? Liquids aren’t extinct. Surely there’s still vodka and wine and tequila and – I really want a drink now. We’ve seen people in hot-tubs full of water, so we know that liquid hasn’t evaporated from existence. Even the jokes that aren’t about anal cavities and such are just flawed.

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I don’t know why I’m bashing the puppets so much, though. They don’t have feelings. They can’t hear me. So I should really target the human cast, shouldn’t I? Melissa McCarthy plays the lead role, and she channels the same character she used in Spy, The Boss, Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, Tammy, Ghostbusters, This Is 40, St. Vincent, etc. The list goes on. McCarthy is loud, shouty and sweary, just fuelling the belief that while this film says it wasn’t for kids, it actually probably was, as they’re the only ones who could find the line “Does this rag smell like chloroform?” fresh and funny. (May I remind you that she has been nominated for an Academy Award, while the likes of Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Jim Carrey haven’t…)

Boasting such a great comedy line-up, it’s a shame to actually see them play second best to fuzzy sock puppets. Elizabeth Banks is reduced to a stripper, who is killed off, and is brought back to life in a twist that even the blind could see; Joel McHale has seven words in the entire movie; and Maya Rudolph is a secretary who cleans puppet semen and then somehow gets the guy she apparently fancied throughout the movie even though no-one really cared for her character at all? Yep. I think that was her whole story arc.

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The Muppets brought us Man Or A Muppet, Gonzo and Rizzo retelling a Dickens classic, and hundreds of aliens singing Kool & the Gangs Celebration. Meanwhile, The Happytime Murders had so many heroin and spunk jokes, that Statler and Waldorf wouldn’t have time to berate it from their balcony, before they were swinging from it via a noose.

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Still, one good thing came out of it. I s’ppose…

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