Movie Review: “The Happytime Murders”
The Happytime Murders
Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) was the first puppet to become a police officer and was the greatest detective on the force. He was a symbol of hope for puppets that they could be anything they wanted to be. One day he was on a mission with his partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), when he missed an important shot. The suspect got away, Connie was severley injured, and there was a civilian casualty. This one mistake ruined his career, cost him his friendship with his partner, and even caused a law that banned puppets from being police officers.
Fifteen years later, Phil is now a private investigator who has found himself in a high profile murder investigation. Happytime (an old, popular sitcom) is about to begin syndication, but the members of the cast are suffering mysterious deaths. The deaths are made to look like coincidences or accidents, but Phil believes the cast members are being targeted. On his investigation, Phil crosses paths with Connie. The two then have to put their differences aside and work together in order to solve the, appropriately named, Happytime Murders.
The Pros & Cons
Puppet Violence (+4pts)
Immature Comedy (-8pts)
Puppets & Humans (+3pts)
The Conclusion (-3pts)
The Mystery (+4pts)
Pro: Puppet Violence (+4pts)
I was not a fan of a lot of the comedy in this movie, but I thought the violence worked really well (comedically). The scenes where Melissa McCarthy was brawling with puppets were pretty entertaining. Part of this was just the silly fact that it looked like Melissa McCarthy was fighting stuffed animals, but it was also funny because of how unusual it was. I think most audiences will know what to expect with a rated-R comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and a puppet, but the fight scenes still felt fresh in an entertaining way.
Then there were the murders themselves. The filmmakers clearly had some fun with finding different ways to kill off puppets. This is such a different thing than audiences are used to, so the filmmakers had endless possibilities here. Some were straight up shot in the face, others were killed off in ways that would be harmless to humans, but understandably horrific for a sentient puppet. Regardless of which route each murder took, the death scenes were funny and felt original.
Con: Immature Comedy (-8pts)
Unfortunately, I felt that the majority of this movie’s comedy missed its mark. It felt like most of the jokes were written by middle school boys and for middle school boys. The sexual humor was unnecessarily juvenile and stupid, and it honestly took me out of the movie. We see extreme puppet ejaculation, a puppet sex shop and porn studio, extremely hairy puppet bush, and more. To make things worse, this was not the only comedy that missed its mark.
There is an ongoing gag joke of “*mumbled random insult* says what?”. This is another joke with the same level of maturity as the sexual humor and I actually remember using that joke in middle school. The movie has some comedy that worked, like the inbreeding gag, but most of the comedy feels very immature. This was pretty unfortunate because the comedy will not work for most adults (even those that are considered to have immature senses of humor).
Pro: Puppets & Humans (+3pts)
I definitely expected that this movie would focus on the racism that would arise from a world where puppets and humans live together. At times, this was really on the nose but, more often than not, the concept works. While the movie never dives deep into these issues, it touches on what it means to be human, racism in the workplace, stereotypes, and romantic relationships between humans and puppets. I expected generic racism, but having racial issues in all of these forms made the world feel more realistic. Like too many minorities today, the puppets in this world have to overcome a lot on a daily basis. While the movie did not show any racial issues we have not seen in other stories, I thought the filmmakers did a good job of providing a unique, fresh perspective on inequality.
Con: The Conclusion (-3pts)
It is difficult to discuss this issue without getting into spoiler territory because my issue is with the falling action of the story. In other words, my issue is specifically with everything after the story's climax. Throughout the rising action, Phil Phillips finds himself in a difficult situation with law enforcement. Based on what happened in the climax, and who was present, Phil’s situation should not have been resolved.
Given the comedic nature of the movie, this did not hurt the story too much, but it definitely felt like something was missing. Sure, one could say it was attempted as a comedic parody of what generic action movies do, but I did not get that impression. I got the impression that the writers got a bit lazy when it came to the conclusion. They wanted a happy ending, but did not have the screentime or energy to wrap everything up neatly. At the end of the day, this was a minor issue with the plot of a raunchy, rated-R, puppet, action-comedy. With that in mind, it really does not hurt the movie greatly, but it was worth mentioning.
Pro: The Mystery (+4pts)
I was pleasantly surprised by the mystery element of this story. With a movie like this, I expected the filmmakers to focus heavily on the comedy and deliver a generic plot. Unfortunatey for the comedy, I felt that the filmmakers actually did the opposite. The comedy felt generic and lazy, but the mystery kept me guessing until the big reveal.
We see a Happytime cast member killed within the first five or ten minutes. Right from there, the audience begins playing a guessing game as to who is responsible for the murders and why? From there, while most movies would resort to lazy writing and give away the reveal to the audience, this movie keeps audiences guessing until the climax of the story. The movie is very far from perfect, but the mystery was fun to play along with.
Con: Jenny (-2pts)
To say the least, I was fairly confused with what the filmmakers were trying to do with this character. Elizabeth Banks plays Jenny, the only human cast member of Happytime who once had a romantic relationship with Phil Phillips. So far, I am on board with the character and the casting, as Elizabeth Banks is no stranger to ridiculous, comedic characters. She gives an expected performance, but I started to have problems with the character when I felt that the filmmakers did not seem to know what to do with her.
As you know, the cast members of Happytime are being systematically murdered. Naturally, it would be safe to assume Jenny is one of the targets. You will have to see the movie to find out if she lives or dies, but it felt like the filmmakers made a decision on her fate, then changed their mind. There was no reason for this reversal and it did not change the story in any way. It was just a mess and I felt that it had a negative impact on the story because of how unnecessary it was. To be honest, I liked the casting but the character felt like a waste of time.
Grade: C- (73pts)
This movie had the opportunity of being a hit, raunchy, action-comedy. A murder mystery story centered around a cast full of puppets, and starring Melissa McCarthy is a combination that could have worked really well. Unfortunately, it felt like the jokes were written by a bunch of immature middle school boys. Do not get me wrong, I was not going into this movie expecting sophisticated humor. I enjoy my fair share of dirty jokes, but this movie felt like the filmmakers were trying too hard to deliver raunchy comedy, and the jokes just ended up falling flat.
While the comedy fell short, I found myself enjoying the mystery aspect of the story. The guessing game that naturally developed was a fun one to play along with. The murders themselves provided a handful of entertaining scenes that involved puppet violence. This was unique and pretty funny to watch, but the movie did not have much more than that. The story touches on inequality throughout the movie’s duration, but the filmmakers never really explore it. This was a movie that had the makings of something special, but the filmmakers failed to execute it properly and delivered a sub-par movie.