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How bad could ‘The Happytime Murders’ really be?

By Kristen Page-Kirby

August 24, 2018 at 9:24 AM

I’m going to put as much effort into this caption as the filmmakers did into this movie. (Hopper Stone/)

So, hi! How was your summer? Good, good. Mine has been going pretty well, too. Took a vacation. Read a lot of books — “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward was the best. The rosé of the summer was the Chateau Montaud Cotes de Provence, which comes in a really pretty bottle. I bet the crafty among you could repurpose it. Make a lamp or something.

Look, can we talk about literally anything other than “The Happytime Murders”?
Fine.

First, it’s not all bad (there’s a phrase to put on the poster). There are times when Melissa McCarthy is genuinely funny, and Maya Rudolph delivers a hilarious monologue about rice pilaf and prison rape. Other than that, “The Happytime Murders” is the kind of film that happens when people have a couple of spare weeks, so they decide to write, shoot, edit and release a movie.

There is, such as it is, a plot. Phil Philips (Bill Barretta), which is definitely a name you come up with when you’re writing a movie in two weeks, is a private detective and a disgraced police officer — the first and last puppet officer in Los Angeles. Oh, yeah. Most of the characters are puppets. Did I forget to mention that?

Anyway, Phil is approached by Sandra White (Dorien Davies), a femme fatale being blackmailed with information about her sex life, because why not go full film noir. Meanwhile, the cast members of “Happytime,” the first puppet-human TV show to reach a large audience, are getting murdered one by one, right before syndication money comes pouring in. Phil teams up with former partner Connie Edwards (McCarthy), and they try to solve both cases.

It took me all of 12 minutes to figure out whodunit, but the point of the movie isn’t the murders. It’s to watch puppets curse a lot and to get a glimpse into puppet porn, puppet sex, puppet drugs, puppet bodily fluids and did I mention the puppet porn?

So … that’s about it. Director Brian Henson (yes, Jim’s son) and writer Todd Berger apparently set out to make an edgy comedy, but there is nothing particularly edgy about profane puppets and a lumbering plot. “Avenue Q” brought cursing puppets and added musical numbers; we’ve even seen puppet sex done better, in “Team America: World Police,” though I guess you could argue that marionettes are different from puppets. So maybe “The Happytime Murders” is actually a pioneer in the grand world of felt-based copulation.

Not even the puppetry is very good. Few of the puppets move their mouths (other than when talking) or eyebrows, so they show no emotion. When we see their full bodies, there is none of the magic of, say, that first glimpse of Kermit on a bike in “The Muppet Movie.” In fact, I expect Kermit and the gang to issue a statement any minute now disavowing this movie.

That’s really more words than “The Happytime Murders” deserves. So move along. Nothing to see here. Better to spend your mind and your money on other things, like books and wine. Because “The Happytime Murders” won’t make you happy and isn’t worth your time.

More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby

 In “Crazy Rich Asians,” mahjong isn’t just a game

“Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” is a reason to go to the movies

 “Eighth Grade” deserves a like and a share


Kristen Page-Kirby covers film, arts and events for Express.

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Express

How bad could ‘The Happytime Murders’ really be?

By Kristen Page-Kirby

August 24, 2018 at 9:24 AM

I’m going to put as much effort into this caption as the filmmakers did into this movie. (Hopper Stone/)

So, hi! How was your summer? Good, good. Mine has been going pretty well, too. Took a vacation. Read a lot of books — “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward was the best. The rosé of the summer was the Chateau Montaud Cotes de Provence, which comes in a really pretty bottle. I bet the crafty among you could repurpose it. Make a lamp or something.

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