The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

‘The Happytime Murders’ is a creative, though sophomoric experiment

Written by: Peggy Marie, Staff Writer for CC2K

I truly wasn’t sure what to expect from The Happytime Murders – Brian Henson’s (son of Muppet creator Jim Henson) foray into the “adult puppet” genre: aka #MuppetsGoneBad. Despite what the marketing team wants you to believe, this for sure isn’t a VERY adult puppet comedy. This isn’t Ernie and Cookie Monster porn. Rather, The Happytime Murders is best described as: ‘Muppets on Crack’. Or should I say sugar? That’s it. This is ‘Muppets on a Sugar Rush’.

In The Happytime Murders, a private detective named Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) picks up a new case leading him directly into a series of brutal puppet homicides. It seems someone is targeting the cast of The Happytime Gang, a once popular sitcom which the performers recently fell on hard times. Phil teams up with his old partner Det. Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the murders. In addition to McCarthy, whose slapstick performance comes off as rather effortless, you’ll also encounter a cast of comedic A-listers: Bubbles (Maya Rudolph), Phillips’ secretary, his ex-girlfriend Jenny (Elizabeth Banks) and Agent Campbell (a sadly under-utilized Joel McHale). Brian Henson directs the film from a script by Todd Berger.

Unfortunately, the murder mystery isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. For that matter, neither is the twist at the end. These cute Muppets are revealed as porn aficionados, drug addicts, plastic surgery fiends and worse. In other words they are just like us. However, that is really the intended joke. There is humor about puppet racism, stuffing, and even what happens to Muppets in jail. To be honest, some of it is quite funny. While the concept is somewhat weird, it is also crazy and even an ingenious idea. It’s like Brian Henson knew he had this one chance to tell an adult-oriented, comically entertaining puppet story and the creator certainly didn’t squander his opportunity.

But when I say it’s for adults, it’s because The Happtime Murders is truly not a family friendly movie. It’s over-the-top heavy on sexual humor and even violence. Although in true Muppet style, the ‘violence’ is an explosion of stuffing after a puppet is shot or attacked by a dog. However, five-year-olds tear their dolls apart like this everyday. Perhaps the exaggerated comedy is necessary in context of making a point. Ultimately, in a story being told by puppets any subtlety overshadows the meaningful point of the narrative.

However, the story is most effective thanks to Barretta and McCarthy. The talented comedians know how to make their sillier jokes feel like extensions of their characters and a reflection of the absurd reality in which they live.

The humor in The Happytime Murders is raunchy and relatively sophomoric. Unfortunately, its story will no doubt be too simplistic for some. However, there is an hour and a half of some good laughs for viewers who are able to simply go with the flow.

Expect The Happytime Murders to be a hit with McCarthy and adult Muppet fans alike, as well as those seeking a “don’t-take-it-so-seriously” fun comedy in these closing days of summer.

The Happytime Murders is currently running in theaters around the country.


Grade: B-