We’ve seen the red band trailer, we heard about the law suit, and now with enough felt to bring a tear to a Spotlight fan’s eye and with so many “fuck yous" it would make Quentin Tarantino blush, ‘The Happytime Murders’ has finally hit our screens. Now after 91 minutes, I can say I adored the concept, I loved the cast, the fact that this was directed by Jim Henson’s son made me giddy, and yet... I did not like this movie. Hate is too strong a word, however I was deeply disappointed, underwhelmed, my sides were left unsplit, and once again, all the best gags were given to the trailer.
Phil Philips, voiced by long serving muppets alum Bill Barretta, is the LAPD’s first and last puppet cop-turned-private eye after an unfortunate incident 12 years earlier. When a new case takes him to a puppet adult store, he becomes a witness to a mass puppet murder and is therefore re-teamed with his ex-partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy, ‘Bridesmaids’). The pair don’t get along very well (and thus begins the cacophony of “fuck you”). So times are tense, but as more puppets begin to fall, the duo start to put aside their past and band together to solve the case. Racism, puppet porn, strippers, puppet sex and deeply disturbing sugar addictions are just some of the things you can’t unsee as Edwards and Philips investigate the murders of the cast of the once popular TV show ‘The Happytime Gang’.
I have to be honest, I’m still perplexed as to why this movie didn’t work. The talent was there, the trailer proved that it was funny, it was also a genuine detective story complete with husky voiceover from our protagonist, a sexy dame who walks into the office and lights it up with sexual tension, a secretary named Bubbles, conflict, action etc. So why does it fail? I would like to blame poor advertising - that is to say, great advertising - at the detriment of the master project. Those damn trailers that reveal too much and steal all the best material. Some could argue that there should be more than just 60 seconds of good material in the first place, and they'd be right, but here and now, the fact remains that happy, excited audiences will walk in, and disappointed ones will walk out. Is the downtrodden PI plus a feisty cop trope overdone? Maybe the juxtaposition was too jarring? I certainly got a ‘Sausage Party’ (2016) vibe, but given the pedigree of that team, I knew more about what I was walking into there than I did here. Perhaps it was because the large talent pool of incredible comedic actors such as Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale weren’t given nearly enough screen time, nor much to do once they got it. Or was the racism angle too real for today’s audiences?
I have to be honest, I’m still perplexed as to why this movie didn’t work.
Whatever the case, save yourself $20+ and an hour and half of your life and just check out the red band YouTube trailer up above. However, I did appreciate the behind-the-scenes blooper reel that played during the end credits.