‘The Happytime Murders’ assumes everything is funnier with puppets


She must be looking at something funny. I wish I was too. Photo from imdb.com

Some movies treat comedy like the art that it is, placing jokes in the right spots with precise timing so that each punchline is as effective as possible. Others like “The Happytime Murders” treat comedy like going to a batting cage thinking that if you keep swinging for the fences every few seconds then you’re bound to hit something.

Bill Barretta plays Private Investigator Phil Phillips and Melissa McCarthy plays Melissa McCarthy pretending to be a cop. The story centers around a series of murders that target members of an old TV sitcom called “The Happytime Gang.”

Stories in a comedy don’t have to be good to get the job done. It is a problem, however, when the story ends up being one of the only interesting elements of the movie. The setting of Los Angeles where puppets are second-class citizens has the potential for a good comedy. Instead of focusing on the world and character interactions, however, this movie explores the comedic potential of “what if puppets did all the naughty things humans do?”

The Jim Henson Company lent their talents in creating the puppets, and their designs are easily the highlight of the movie. Animal puppets and humanoid puppets are all designed in a way that exudes personality without having to use words or actions to get them across. An R-rated comedy with puppets could totally work, but not when the talent is squandered on constant jokes about puppets having sex and doing drugs while Melissa McCarthy says “fuck” in every other sentence.

The movie has a few funny moments but a handful of chuckles isn’t enough to justify a running time of an hour and a half. If the movie focused on the crime and drama aspects that it sets up, then it could have had something closer to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a movie where the story fits perfectly with the world. “The Happytime Murders” feels like a movie that was written as a mediocre, raunchy comedy and then someone had the idea to throw some puppets in.

A small sidenote: This movie has been constantly advertised using the puppet called “Goofer” in the promos and he’s in the movie for like five minutes. Out of all the characters in the movie he had the most interesting visual design and voice work and it’s barely used. It’s like a puppet version of the Joker in “Suicide Squad” but with actual potential being wasted.

If you’re someone who really loves Jim Henson’s style of puppets then you might get a kick out of this. Otherwise, you’re better off waiting for this movie to be forced upon you on a flight in three months. The puppets were nice to look at and it’s enough to get “The Happytime Murders” two stars.

Final Score: 2/5

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.