The Happytime Murders Review
This seemed totally in my wheelhouse. A movie made by Brian Hensen, the son of the legendary Jim Hensen. Following in his fathers footsteps with the use of puppets, but in a completely different direction. Make a buddy cop comedy movie starring a human and a puppet, set it in a darker version of "The Muppets" and let the laughs roll. Cast such humans as Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph and Joel McHale and you're set. Right? Right? What follows is a movie that has hotly divided audience since its release, and has been ripped to shreds by the critics.
Well, I side with the critics, almost overwhelmingly. "The Happytime Murders" is a big piece of shit. I don't even feel bad saying it. In fact, I feel so good, I'll say it one more time. "The Happytime Murders" is a big piece of shit. A total miscalculation that slogs along way past its welcome. Completely unfunny in every form and fashion. A cliche-ridden mess that is a total waste of actors, a total waste or resources and a total waste of time for the audience. I was looking at this project with much more hopeful eyes than it deserved. I not only got punched in the face for my efforts, I got hit by a car, struck by lightning and then had a beehive land and crack open on me for my efforts.
Before we really get into it, let me just set the bar straight. When a movie so effortlessly divides audiences like this film has, the easiest argument the supporters of said movie can muster is simply stating "you just didn't understand it." or in this case, "you just don't like raunchy comedy." These are the laziest arguments one can make. Smart people can still have opinions on smart movies, and you can be a fan of raunchy, out-of-control humor and not like EVERYTHING that subgenre has to offer. Look back over the course of this blog. I have recommended such movies as "Sausage Party" (which is somehow being compared to this tripe) and "Re-Animator" and "Mail Order Wife." I enjoy raunchy comedy. I enjoy darker comedy. I like these types of comedy of all ages, throughout all of time. I am not a card-carrying Politically Correct member of society. I can take a bitter joke. I also pride myself having a broad sense of humor. I am almost thirty years old and I still laugh at farts for twenty minutes. It could very well be that I am immensely immature for my age. It shouldn't take much to get me laughing, and when I sit in a theater, watching a comedy I've been dying to see, and I don't laugh at all. That's an automatic red flag.
That is just my long winded explanation of how much of a chance I gave this movie. I gave it a fair shot, and I can say with honesty and with ease that "The Happytime Murders" is a failure. When people try to say that its comparable to "Rick And Morty" or "Venture Bros" or the half a dozen other superior pop culture events, those people are overselling you. I love "Rick and Morty," I don't love "The Happytime Murders." Not one bit. I call the movie a wasted effort because so many great artists went into this only to make a cliche murder mystery and followed it with a bunch of unfunny jokes. I bet Brian Henson has seen several film noirs in his day, and if he wanted to make a riff on that genre, cool. I get that the genre has certain rules to follow. But if you don't want to break those rules, or even properly parody those rules, then I honestly don't get the point of making it in the first place.
I call the movie a missed opportunity because there was actually lots of potential in the idea. The movie takes place in a seedy alternate Los Angeles, where puppets and humans share the city. There is some animosity between the two races. This movie could have worked as a funny version of Netflix's "Bright," but the cast and crew fail to make any serious points or land any of their jokes. Time after time, the movie is continually unfunny. They touch on the everyday prejudices that sadly still plague our world, but there is never any serious inquiry. There are never any clever metaphors through humor. "Sausage Party" was a surprise because not only was it laugh-out-loud funny, but it was actually an interesting commentary about how we share this country and this world, we all want different things and we all come from different backgrounds, but when the chips are down, we come together to help each other. It's a sentiment more Americans could stop and live by without making everything little thing that comes into their lives political. It's a message I would have never thought to see in an R-rated movie about food.
"The Happytime Murders" just wants to tell a simple noir story, without even trying to parody it. It features a huge slew of unfunny jokes. I guess I should have expected the worst when the silly string jizz scene made famous by the trailers went on a half hour too long in a two minute trailer. I had high hopes. I mean, there is a scene where the lead detective walks into a porn shop and sees a woman milking a cow on its back in a masturbatory motion. I should have laughed out loud, its wickedly hilarious on page. But none of the laughs work onscreen. The detective mystery has its own set of rules. Film noir has its own set of rules. Jim Hensen's career was based solely on innocence and laughter. This movie was ripe to be so funny it caused a stomach-ache. But no, zero effort was made on the laughs, and that is always the most disappointing thing about a comedy.
If you haven't spent money on this already, I recommend you don't.
FINAL GRADE: D-