THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS starts out pretty hilariously but when the end credits hit, you realize that the entire product is like a puppet with no puppeteer: all felt and fluff, yet no soul. The only truly amazing thing in this film is the puppet work, which you get a peek of how they did certain scenes during the end credits (honestly I would’ve rather watched a 90 minute feature on some of the amazing puppet effects throughout history). During the first 15 minutes of the film, I was laughing my fucking ass off, wondering why the critics were being so cruel to this, but after the first little bit, I realized exactly what was happening. The laughs were substituted for a story that is so lame brain and dull I was wishing for the worst possible thing you could wish for out of a comedy, that they would toss the story out the window and just have the puppets to more crude and crass shit. Instead they tried to get a little too serious with a joke here or there, and everything just falls completely flat on its face. Meet The Feebles, this is not.
I just mentioned a film called Meet The Feebles. Unless you are a huge film geek, you probably don’t know that this isn’t the first raunchy film about puppets to ever hit the big screen. What is funny is that if you are a Lord of the Rings uber fan, then you might know what it is. Meet The Feebles is a 1989 crude as hell puppet flick co-written and directed by none other than Peter Jackson. Instead of checking out The Happytime Murders, see if you can find Feebles instead, I guarantee you are likely to have a better time. This movie has been in development hell as far back as 2008. If you look at some of the promotional material, you’ll see some really cool act that depicts a much more darker and interesting police noir type film. With a film being in production for the past 10 years, and the very cool promotional material for the film, why the hell didn’t we get something better and akin to a new puppet classic, but for adults?
I have a theory. For starters, they probably shouldn’t have hired a guy (Jim Henson’s son no less, Brian Henson) who hasn’t directed a God damn film since Muppet Treasure Island back in 1996. While he has actually proven himself with children puppet movies in the past, clearly this film was way out of his league. If he was going for a police noir type puppet crude and sexual humor comedy, the overall tone should’ve been much darker. Everything in this movie is too bright and cheery, including the cinematography. If you are going to make a R rated puppet flick, don’t direct it like you think children are going to see the movie. What they should’ve done is hire another director, and a different cinematographer, to help Brian Henson with the movie. Brian Henson could’ve been the sole person in charge of the puppetry, while the director got the tone and everything else right.
But like I said in the first paragraph, it is mainly the story that is extremely mediocre. It has a good set up, in a world where puppets and humans co-exist, someone is killing puppets that were on a popular show called The Happytime Gang, and no a disgraced puppet ex-cop and his old human partner, played by Melissa McCarthy, but now solve these murders before all the fluff hits the fan. The beginning is really good and funny, especially at the beginning where you have the first words out of a puppets mouth be “fuck you” and some hilarious hijinks in a puppet adult themed porn shop, but the rest of the film and the execution is sloppy and boring. I didn’t care who was murdering puppets or why. I didn’t even try to think hard to try and figure out the mystery, because I didn’t care, because the movie didn’t have me engaged enough.
The puppets are the stars of this film, and the guy that is the puppeteer and voices the main character, Bill Barretta, does a great job as Phil Phillips (no wonder though, he also does my favorite Muppet of all time, The Swedish Chef). There are too many other puppets to mention on here, and some of the jokes I consider spoilers, but just know that all the puppeteers do fantastic puppetry and voice work. The human characters are all blah. Melissa McCarthy does her same old blah schtik. Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale look like they are just there for their blah paychecks. Completely blah human characters all around (Maya Rudolph is even wasted here). If you still really want to see this film (still see it, don’t let any of my reviews stop you from seeing what you want to see), the only way I can recommend it is for the hilarious first 15 minutes, a couple of jokes between that and the end, and the masterful puppet work (especially the end credits). This was extremely disappointing, and just makes me want to watch Meet The Feebles or Sausage Party again to brighten up my vulgar non-kids “kids” movie fix. I can also watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit to watch something that did both the noir feel and the masterful storytelling perfectly (that isn’t near as vulgar).