Release date: Aug. 24, 2018
Directed by: Brian Henson
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, Bill Barretta
Budget: $40 million
Box office: $950,000 (Thursday previews)
A police officer and private detective investigate murders of retired sitcom stars in a world where humans and puppets coexist.
The Happytime Murders is what happens when some good elements are included in an otherwise passable film, allowing for an enjoyable cinematic experience though the end result is pretty weak. Audiences are thrust into a world that sees humans living alongside puppets and while it’s an interesting concept, the worldbuilding is rather inadequate. It’s a wide world with barely any depth, presenting the idea of most humans being prejudiced against puppets, something which comes up constantly. However, the film does not explore this and chooses to repeatedly hit its audience over the head with obvious moments showing the humans exhibiting enmity between the puppets without ever diving into how this world works.
Nevertheless, this film does have its successes, especially with the humans acting alongside the puppets. McCarthy does portray her usual character: loudmouthed and crass with little regard for how she comes off. Nevertheless, she has near perfect chemistry with Barretta, who is shown during the credits as having been operating his puppet on screen for the whole film. The two of them banter back and forth incredibly well, giving off the feeling the two of them have known each other for as long as their characters have. The other actors give varied performances, but those who know exactly how absurd this film is can easily be seen having fun with their roles.
The plot itself, despite the film not excelling at building a fully fleshed out world, is entertaining, merging raunchy sex comedy with hardboiled detective mystery, telling it with puppets and turning into what can only be described as an interesting affectionate love letter to the noir genre. Further, the film does seem to be aware of exactly how absurd its premise is, takes advantage and runs with it. Most times, it knows when to kill the laughs so the mystery can advance. It’s an engaging scheme as well, with the characters putting all the pieces together in quite an amusing way.
This film definitely isn’t for everyone. Still, it can provide a decent moviegoing experience.