The Happytime Murders
Bill Barretta, Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, Leslie David Baker
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…like being shot in the face with an icy cold blast of humour-retardant chemicals.
While the concept of horny puppets isn’t startlingly original – Peter Jackson was banging that drum way back in ‘89 with Meet the Feebles – there are enough potential laughs in the conceit to justify having another go. At least, that seems to be the rationale behind The Happytime Murders – a “comedy” that boldly forges ahead, blasting onto screens despite being stultifyingly bereft of jokes or charm.
Happytime is set in a world where humans and puppets coexist, with the latter being treated as second class citizens. In the film’s opening minutes it looks like this will be the basis for a heavy-handed allegory about racism (ala Netflix’s Bright) but this potentially topical narrative thread is swiftly dropped in favour of jizz jokes and bad ad-libbing. Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is a charisma-free private dick and puppet who, due to a series of grisly murders, is forced to reunite with his old human partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy). To be fair this is a pretty elegant premise; a mismatched duo entering the seedy side of the puppet world would seem like the kind of foundation for chuckles-a-plenty – and yet Happytime seems blithely unconcerned with making anything but the most surface-level puns and achingly obvious dick and fart jokes. This is especially true in the film’s second half where it actually attempts to be a pseudo cop movie, leaving the audience sitting in confused, awkward silence.
It’s hard to express how unfunny this movie is, like being shot in the face with an icy cold blast of humour-retardant chemicals. “Are they even attempting to make a comedy?” you’ll wonder, “Is it puppet noir and they just advertised the movie wrong?”
None of the puppet characters distinguish themselves via voice acting, although the puppeteering is moderately impressive, but sadder still is the criminal waste of human talent like Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks and Joel McHale who gamely give it their all but are working from a script that offers less than zero. Say what you will about Sausage Party (2016) but that was a shock comedy that knew what its premise was and milked the bloody thing accordingly. The Happytime Murders, on the other hand, is a bafflingly humour-free slog that doesn’t even offer enough weird sex stuff to be a cult hit for undiscerning furries!
Ultimately The Happytime Murders isn’t remotely happy and the only murder victims are a solid premise and 91 minutes of your life.