‘The Happytime Murders’ (Review) All Puppets, No Charm

Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy star in The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

‘The Happytime Murders’ stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks, and puppets from the world of The Jim Henson Company. Directed by Brian Henson this plotline follows a simple premise. In a world where humans and puppets live amongst each other. A human detective teams up with a puppet private investigator, to track down a killer specifically targeting puppets from a show called The Happytime Gang.

I was mildly interested in what this film would deliver in terms of story-line and sense-of-humor. I wasn’t overly excited for ‘Sausage Party’ and ended up loving it. I tend to enjoy McCarthy as well. Her films don’t always hit with me. But she has such a charming screen presence that just gravitates to me, so I felt comfortable in her ability to carry this film on her shoulders. The thought of a murder-mystery much in the form of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ but with a darker noir vibe, and an edgy tone also built some genuine curiosity.

Unfortunately, none of these aspects; the story, the sense-of-humor, nor McCarthy in the lead delivered serviceable entertainment. I wanted to have a great time. I have a wide blanket for humor that can hit with me. But this script was extremely tunnel minded, with a singular focus on shock-value raunchy humor, either drug or sex based, with nothing else to build around it. For me the novelty of the humor wore off after fifteen-minutes. I get it, humans and puppets co-exist, they have jobs, and relationships. Yet it felt like this movie had the impression it was reinventing the wheel, when it wasn’t.

Melissa McCarthy stars in The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

Strip away the elements and it is simply child-themed material, with adult subject-matter woven into it. It has been done for years. But this movie felt the need to continually reiterate what it was with one innuendo laced sex joke, and puppet themed double entendre after the other. That was the only theme the comedic mind of this film had, when there was the potential for much more variety. I laughed a couple of times. I smirked and chuckled on a few occasions as well. But most of them were because of the subtle humor, not the in-your-face attempts.

There was no charm to the characters. There was little to no personality to them either, so the attempts at humor came off forced and routinely lazy. ‘Rotten cotton’ will get a chuckle out of me. But the script had to do better than relentless school cafeteria jokes. The main plot had potential, but it was unfortunately not the focus. It was nothing more than a recycled skeleton of narration to use for setting up comedic bits. It could have easily gone a little deeper into the plot-line and characters to make it even the slightest bit interesting. But it never showed a desire to build on the unique elements in its corner, as much as it felt like a film in desperate need to grab cheap laughs.

The cast was, there. McCarthy was McCarthy and she does have a couple solid lines but there was no inspiration to the character at all. Elizabeth Banks was a plug-n-play character and her arc in the story was so blatant that is only hindered the film. Maya Rudolph on the other hand was the bright-spot. She had the most genuine character. She went all in on the role to create a personality for it, and she was able to get the bulks of my laughs through her performance.

The production design was well-crafted. It had a fun noir vibe to the story that I wish would have shined a little more. The look of the puppets being placed in the world with humans was captured with some charming visual appeal at times as well. The variety to the look of the puppets was also creative and amusing, as well as insensitive in some circumstances. Which is expected in a dark comedy like this.

However, with relentless waves of mindless humor that showed no effort. The result was much less entertaining than mindless humor with creative ambition. The tone of the film gives off the appearance of being for adults. It certainly has graphic-content, yet the dialogue felt tailored to a middle-school crowd. This movie simply did not do it for me. But it may do it for you, and that’s the joy of film. I just felt there was a lack of effort in creating an engaging story or characters. There was an overly juvenile tone to the sense-of-humor and while that theme can provide laughs, it won’t do so in a film that circles the entire scope of its comedic range in the first ten-minutes.


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Maya Rudolph stars in The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

Maya Rudolph stars in The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

Melissa McCarthy stars in The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018) STX Entertainment ©

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