The Happytime Murders
The problem with The Happytime Murders isn’t that there aren’t any laughs (there are) but that there are three films in there somewhere. That’s absolutely not to suggest that Brian Henson should go away and get set for the trilogy – the movie is simply incredibly confused about its tone and identity.
To kick-off, this comedy is a sort of LA cop-movie satire, with seedy video stores, a hard-nosed former policeman down on his luck (puppet lead Phil Philips, voiced enjoyably by Bill Barretta), ageing former TV stars and a ransom note forged in part from a porn magazine. This lasts for about 15 minutes. Basically, that opening quarter of an hour it’s actually quite good – admittedly largely in the vulgar, crass, shock-value way that its critics would condemn it for.
Then, as with our planet and much else, the human beings arrive and ruin everything. Once Melissa McCarthy (as Philips’s former partner Detective Connie Edwards) and co appear the whole thing becomes a modern, all-too crisp, on-the-nose buddy cop comedy, which is the second movie hiding away in there. Maya Rudolph, who shines as Philips’s improbably lovestruck secretary, Bubbles, is the lone human exception, managing to make her performance just plain odd enough to bridge the muppet/sapien divide.
And the third film? Well, sorry for spoilers, but it’s definitely all a bit Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with Henson’s plot this time revolving around the murders of the former stars of hit TV show The Happytime Gang. Philips is dragged out of exile to help with the case, but is he actually involved…?
There is also an overarching attempt to use the segregation of muppet and human as a metaphor for racism, which is clunky to say the least and the “sock” slur becomes incredibly tired by the end. As the film starts to flounder not only does it fall back on tired tropes, and a leftover script lying around in the back of the office, but a few of the jokes also cross a line from crass to plain old offensive.
“No Sesame. All Street” – it’s a fun tagline (as these things go), except The Happytime Murders isn’t all anything. It’s just a bit of a mess.
The Happytime Murders is released nationwide on 27th August 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Happytime Murders here: