The Not-So-Happytime Murders

I went to the Regal Town Center to see the 7:05 pm screening of The Happytime Murders, to which I arrived far too early. The movie theater was nice and slow. The perfect time to go the movies, in my opinion, is between releases when there is nothing to draw in a crowd. The staff was really quite friendly, and I barely had to wait in line at concessions to get my over-priced movie theater candy and Icee.

A poorly lit picture standing in front of the poster for Creed

The theater was really clean, although besides that it was not really noteworthy. As I had hoped, it was mostly empty and I could easily get an entire row to myself. The ads they played before the movie were as awful as one would expect, but they were at least tolerable.

Trailers

The trailers before the movie included Assassination Nation, Nobody’s Fool, and Night School. These seemed interesting, I had previously seen other trailers for Nobody’s Fool and Night School and these trailers did not really sell me any more than the others had. The trailer for Assassination Nation stood out to me. A black comedy thriller about a town where a hacker exposes everyone’s secrets which leads to ludicrous violence and chaos. The movie is written and directed by Sam Levinson. The trailer was kind of hard to follow, but the concept is interesting enough that I may end up checking it out.

The Movie

I wanted to like Brian Henson‘s The Happytime Murder, it had so much potential to be a silly murder mystery set in a puppet-filled world. The vulgar comedy stars Melissa McCarthy as Detective Connie Edwards and the voice of Bill Barretta as her ex-partner turned private-eye Phil Phillips. The bickering duo work together to solve a string of murders tied to an old TV show. Ultimately though, the movie left me disappointed.

Thinking back, I’m not exactly sure why I had such high hopes for this movie. An R-rated movie about a world in which puppets are autonomous creatures living alongside humans does not exactly fill me with excitement. If anything I guess I went in expecting something more akin to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? but obviously my expectations were much too high. First off, I don’t think the movie is bad per se. There were many moments that I thought were really funny, and actually thought that Melissa McCarthy was hilarious throughout the movie. My issues primarily stem from both the plot of the movie as well as its obsession with cramming its R-rating down your throat.

Plot Problems

Again, when I look at the plot of The Happytime Murders I cannot help but compare it to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a movie that most likely served as an inspiration, and that comparison does the movie no favors. You follow Phil Philips, a puppet ex-cop turned detective who has to work with his ex-partner Detective Connie Edwards to investigate a string of murders tied to an old TV show. The draw of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to me was the way it combined a compelling and funny plot with interesting visuals to create an entertaining and enthralling movie. The Happytime Murders, on the other hand, feels more akin to a skeletal plot used to string the audience along from one gag to the next. Perhaps there is a deeper nuance than I could discover on a single viewing, but I find no compelling reason to waste my time watching it again to look for that nuance. I was disappointed that by the end of the movie I felt little satisfaction at the supposed “growth” of any of the characters, I could not care less for the triumph of the main character.

Comedy Problems

But it’s a comedy, it’s allowed to have a bland plot if it is funny you might think. And yes, the movie has its funny moments that stand out, which  definitely helps redeem the movie to me, keeping me from calling it bad outright. The issue I have, is its over reliance on vulgarity-as-comedy gags. A single scene that stands out in my mind is an exaggerated and overly long sex scene involving two puppet characters. The gag just keeps going, moving from chuckle-worthy to uncomfortable rather quickly and remaining there until it finishes with something that completely changes my perspective on silly string. This is far from the only scene which seems to rely on the bizarre dissonance of characters similar to your favorite Muppets can cuss and have sex for its comedy which just puts me off really enjoying the humor.

What I liked

Aside from the lacking plot and gross humor, there were some really, really funny moments in the movie. And I must admit, I am somewhat bias in that I think that Melissa McCarthy is a very funny actress, but most of all her comedy bits stood out as really funny.

Additionally, I must commend the movie for the excellent ways that it established a world in which puppets and humans lived alongside. It never felt forced when a puppet character appeared, although I guess that is to be expected of the son of legendary puppeteers like Jim and Jane Henson. The movie made it easy to almost forget that in reality the puppets were being controlled by someone, appearing more as merely bizarre looking characters. In fact, one of my favorite parts was that during the credits they showed some bloopers without the visual effects to remove the puppeteers which provided some hilarity as well as gave really cool insight into the work that goes into creating movies like this.

Conclusion

Another poorly lit picture, although somehow in a completely different way. This time in front of the poster for First Man

Overall, I enjoyed my experience going to the movies, even though The Happytime Murders failed to live up to my expectations. In the future I would definitely go to the Regal Town Center again, and would even see another movie from Brian Henson, although I’d probably wait and read the reviews first.

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