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Movie Review: “The Happytime Murders”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Happytime Murders

Theatrical Release: 8/24/2018

Theatrical Release: 8/24/2018

Synopsis

Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) was the first puppet to become a police officer and he was the greatest detective on the force. He was a symbol of hope for puppets that they could be anything they wanted to be. However, one day he was on a mission with his partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), and he missed an important shot. The suspect got away, Connie was severely injured, and there was even a civilian casualty. It was one slip up, but it cost him his friendship with his partner, and it 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, and the members of the cast are now suffering mysterious deaths. The deaths are made to look coincidental, but Phil believes the cast members are being targeted. On his investigation, Phil crosses paths with Connie, and the two now have to put their differences aside and work together in order to solve the Happytime Murders.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Puppet Violence (+4pts)

Immature Comedy (-8pts)

Puppets & Humans (+3pts)

The Conclusion (-3pts)

The Mystery (+4pts)

Jenny (-2pts)

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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 ridiculously fighting stuffed animals, but it was also funny because of how unusual it was. I think most audiences will know what to expect with an 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. The movie's premise made way for some funny puppet deaths, and the filmmakers really ran with the idea. They killed off puppets in some horrific ways, but the victims were puppets, so these scenes ended up being pretty amusing. 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 it was one area that the filmmakers got right.

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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 was honestly so ridiculous that it frequently took me out of the movie, and I normally do not dislike dirty humor. We saw puppet ejaculation, a puppet sex shop and porn studio, extremely hairy puppet bush, and more. All of these raunchier moments completely fell short for me, but this was not the only type of comedy that did not work for me in this movie.

There was an ongoing gag joke of “*mumbled random insult* says what?”. This was another joke with the same level of maturity as the sexual humor, and the filmmakers went to this well multiple times. The movie had some comedic moments that worked, like the inbreeding gag, but most of the comedy felt incredibly immature. It was a movie that was so immature that was even able to turn off people like myself, who can normally appreciate immature humor.

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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 lived together. At times, this was really on the nose, but more often than not, the concept worked well. While the movie never dove deep into these issues, it touched on what it means to be human, racism in the workplace, racial stereotypes in general, and romantic relationships between humans and puppets. I expected generic racism, but having racial issues in all of these forms made the world feel real and lived in. Like too many minorities today, the puppets in this world had to overcome a lot on a daily basis. While the movie did not show any racial issues we have not seen in other stories, being about puppets gave the filmmakers a unique opportunity to bring a fresh perspective on inequality to the screen.

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Con: The Conclusion (-3pts)

It is difficult to discuss this issue without getting into spoiler territory, because my issue was with everything that came after the story's climax. Throughout the rising action, Phil Phillips found 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 the impression that the filmmakers intended for it to play that way. I instead got the impression that the writers got a bit lazy when it came to the conclusion of the story. They wanted a happy ending, but they did not have the screentime or energy to wrap everything up neatly, so they just forced a happy ending even if it had not yet been earned.

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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 saw a Happytime cast member killed within the first five or ten minutes of the movie. That kicked off the guessing game, regarding who is responsible for the murders and why. While most movies would resort to lazy writing and give away the reveal to the audience, this movie kept me guessing right up until the climax of the story. The movie was very far from perfect, but the mystery was fun to play along with.

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Con: Jenny (-2pts)

I was fairly confused with what the filmmakers were trying to do with this character. Elizabeth Banks played Jenny, the only human cast member of Happytime who once had a romantic relationship with Phil Phillips. On paper, I am was board with the character and the casting, as Elizabeth Banks is no stranger to ridiculous comedic characters. She gave the comedic performance that you would expect from the actress, but I started to get the impression that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with the character.

As you know, the cast members of Happytime were being systematically murdered. Naturally, it would be safe to assume Jenny was one of the targets. You will have to see the movie to find out if she lived or died, but it seemed like the filmmakers made a decision on her fate, then changed their mind to go in a completely different direction. Either option would have been fine, but it felt like the filmmakers were indecisive, and by not picking one fate and writing toward it, I thought the filmmakers sort of ruined the character.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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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 was 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 ended up falling flat as a result of that.

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. These scenes were unique and pretty funny to watch, but the movie did not have much more than that. The filmmakers touched on inequality throughout the story, but they never really explore it to a compelling degree. This was a movie that had the makings of something special, but the filmmakers failed to execute it properly and I thought they delivered a sub-par movie.

Comments

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 08, 2018:

No, I wouldn't want to see Kermit going on a killing spree lol, but I think Miss Piggy for sure!