The Happytime Murders is aptly named because the film is where joy, laughter and happiness go to die.
Written and directed by Brian Henson (son of Sesame Street creator Jim Henson), the film mixes Muppets into the adult world in a concept that should work; unfortunately, watching Muppets swear stops being funny after the first ten times.
The plot is a basic who-dunnit with our star Phil Phillips (Muppet) working as a grizzled private eye in downtown LA. A once decorated police officer, he left the force in disgrace after a shooting gone wrong.
In this world, Muppets live among people and are treated like distant cousins by society.
When Phil happens upon a murder scene at a local puppet porn shop (if you’re wondering how a puppet porn shop isn’t funny – I’ll admit that it’s worth a cheap chuckle) he gets sucked into a case.
The former stars (including his brother) of the first Muppet/human crossover television show are being killed off one at a time. He’s forced to pair up with his former police partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the case. McCarthy does her best with the material but her two big jokes are that other characters think she looks like a man (she doesn’t) and that she’s hooked on sugar with a refrigerator full of maple syrup.
Along the way, we meet Elizabeth Banks who plays a stripper with a fondness for Muppets, Maya Rudolph as Phil’s gal Friday and Joel McHale as a grumpy FBI agent. All of them funny people, all of them rendered 100% incapable of humour in this film.
It’s more than a little disappointing that the movie doesn’t work because it’s such a fun concept. But the filmmakers didn’t push far enough – simply placing Muppets in adult situations (the porn shop, a strip club, having sex) or using adult language isn’t enough to hang an entire film on. Those are amusing ideas at best – unfortunately it’s as far as this film got.
When the after credits scene showing how the filmmakers made the film with the Muppets is not only more interesting than the film but also funnier, you’ve got a problem.
The filmmakers aimed high and hoped to land among Who Framed Roger Rabbit fame but instead landed in ‘drunk teenagers find a bag of puppets and put on a backyard show’ territory.
In the end, the film is brought to you by the letter D, for disappointing.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia