Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Brian Henson
Running Time: 91 mins
The Happytime Murders is an American film about a puppet private detective who investigates the serial murders of the cast of a classic children’s show, while battling against discrimination in his local community.
Made in a similar vein to the likes of Ted and Sausage Party, The Happytime Murders aims to take a beloved element of your childhood and shock you by turning it into a foul-mouthed extravaganza. However, it doesn’t really pull this off all too well, with underwhelming humour, dull characters and a little too much reliance on gross-out gags, and while it does often prove a surprisingly entertaining nod back to classic detective movies, it’s a generally boring and frustrating watch throughout.
When this film was released last summer, there was a big noise made about just how horribly crass and unfunny it was, however for me, it’s not necessarily all that terrible. Of course, it’s far from the funniest movie we’ve seen starring puppets, but when it comes to its cruder comedy, it sits in a frustrating but not overly infuriating middleground between the two extremes of how to get the genre right and very wrong.
Ted and Sausage Party are good representatives for those two extremes. On the one hand, Ted shocks with a swearing, drinking teddy bear, yet moulds that foul-mouthed persona into his character well, and plays that out through a well-written that’s equally as engaging as it is funny. On the flipside, Sausage Party takes the same premise – animated food swearing – and then shoves it down your throat for an hour and a half, with no character or story intrigue to be seen anywhere.
In the middle of that lies The Happytime Murders. I won’t deny that its reliance on crude, gross-out humour is a little excessive at times, and the premise of seeing Sesame Street-esque puppets swearing and the rest gets boring very quickly. However, there is still a little more that this film has to offer, and while it doesn’t quite excel when it comes to shocking you or making you laugh, its recreation of the classic detective genre proves an entertaining distraction throughout.
With a playful nod towards all the tropes of detective/noir cinema (a good amount of Venetian blinds here), I would have been perfectly happy to have watched a puppet parody of film-noir right the way through, with the film starting off on a great footing, only to fall away later as it moves back towards the style of a generic, modern crime-comedy.
That’s not to say that the crime story is in anyway particularly engrossing or impressive, and while the film hits the nail on the head as it recreates the vibes of film-noir, it doesn’t really grab you at any point as a result of a painfully predictable, poorly paced and simply dull plot, making the film a far duller watch throughout.
Overall, then, I wasn’t overly impressed by The Happytime Murders, but nor was I as outraged as I expected. Despite a little bit too much crass humour, the film isn’t a painfully irritating watch, and in fact proves surprisingly enjoyable with its playful homage to film-noir, even though its story undoes a lot of that good work, which is why I’m giving it a 6.1.