The Happytime Murders (M18)
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale
Directed by Brian Henson
You’ve probably seen the NSFW trailer for this raunch-com: a puppet is seen having sex (with another puppet, just to be clear) and later ejaculating silly string for an unbelievably — and admirably — long time. Then again, he’s a puppet, so anything is possible.
When I first saw it, I thought it was funny. Second time around, still funny. But by the third time, I wasn’t sure anymore. And when I got around to see the scene in its entirety, I wasn’t impressed at all. Then again, either was I with the rest of the movie.
Set in a bizarre alternate universe where man and puppets co-exist side by side, Melissa McCarthy plays a foul-mouthed cop, not unlike the one she portrayed in The Heat, who teams up with her former partner-turned-private eye puppet Phil Philips (any relation to American Idol winner Phillip Phillips?) to solve a series of gruesome murders of celebrity puppets who were once stars of the eponymous children’s show.
Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with the ‘toon inhabitants replaced by puppets.
As the duo hunt for clues and run down suspects, they encounter assorted sordid incidents involving drugs, prostitutes, strip clubs, a Basic Instinct-inspired interrogation, and the above-mentioned sexual congress.
This is an adults-version of Sesame Street directed by Brian Henson, the son of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, produced under the banner Henson Alternative. So, boys and girls, this is sanctioned sacrilege.
The movie, which also stars Joel McHale as a FBI douchebag and Maya Rudolph as the gumshoe’s embittered secretary, is shocking alright but it’s nothing you’ve already seen the filthy shenanigans in Team America: World Police, another puppets-starring comedy by South Park crazies Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
If you strip away the vulgar moments, what’s left of The Happytime Murders is a low-rent Naked Gun that more often than not fires blanks. It doesn’t soar as high as The Muppets; then again, it didn’t really take off.
Not many of the jokes are very funny, and some seem plain desperate. Humour is often likened to a high-wire act; it entails considerable risks and is a triumph if they get to the other side, but disastrous when they fall from it. And The Happytime Murders is an insurance liability.
Maybe Henson should’ve thrown in a catchy tune or two to sell the silliness, or better yet, enlisted a few famous fuzzy stars from the family-friendly stable — you know, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Oscar — to make cameo appearances. Now wouldn't that be something.
Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh… (**1/2)
Photo: STX Films/Golden Village