The Happytime Murders: Surprisingly enjoyable

Leonardo Paley

Jim Henson’s Muppets are revolutionary in children’s entertainment. Recently, there has been a resurgence of the Muppets in society. James Bobin’s (co-creator of “Flight of the Conchords”) 2011 “The Muppets” was met with remarkable reviews, garnering a sequel for Bobin and giving Henson’s Muppets a second chance.

Following this success, ABC attempted to give the Muppets a more mature TV show, similar to the style of “The Office” and “Parks and Rec.” Unfortunately, despite some funny and intelligent writing, the show was met poorly by reviewers and canceled after one season. Nevertheless, a market was created, and the Muppets of Jim Henson are being reintroduced with mature and raunchy humor.

It must be said that seeing scenes of knock-off Muppets swearing prolifically, ejaculating obscene amounts, and running constant vulgar witticisms is not what people expect when they think of the Henson company. Despite this, Brian Henson somehow took the groundwork his father laid down and manipulated it into something that is, beyond all odds, amusing to watch. Highly self aware and incredibly tongue-in-cheek, “The Happytime Murders” is an enjoyable flick. A consistent blend of slapstick humor and the more comedic improv heavy dialogue made popular by Judd Apatow permeate the film throughout its entirety.

Melissa McCarthy in “The Happytime Murders.” Courtesy of STX Entertainment.

Bill Barretta, a primary Muppet puppeteer for almost three decades, makes a return as the puppeteer and voice for the film’s main character, Phil Phillips. A disgraced cop, the story follows Philips as he tracks down a murderer who is making hits solely on puppets. While the film does allude to race allegories throughout, it never takes itself seriously enough for the divide between puppets and humans to draw full lines. Perhaps this exemplifies the best part of “The Happytime Murders,” its continual drive to mock the concept of puppets living in our world and any assumptions we, the audience, would make about their world.

Melissa McCarthy continues her role as an awkward slapstick and reactionary comedian. Her rapport with Barretta’s Phil Phillips has moments of brilliant ingenuity. The individual talents of each comedian shine, but is sadly highly inconsistent. Unfortunately for McCarthy, her character is not developed enough to feel proper within the world. In a film world that is painstakingly built to be internally critiqued, McCarthy’s Detective Connie Edwards feels out of place and confusing at times, scenes of comedic character development shoved in without repercussions or consistency elsewhere in the film.

Where the movie truly finds itself lacking is in the story itself. While there is a surprising and rather enjoyable twist during the third act, the overall plot of the movie suffers from cliche. In some ways this is unsurprising–movies that attempt to be tongue-in-cheek and critical of expectations tend to find themselves suffering to those same cliches in the attempt to mock them.

In this sense, “The Happytime Murders” is held back immensely. With too much focus on the jokes that can be fit into the overall story, the plot finds itself lacking in originality and intrigue. In an attempt to be meta and self-aware, too many sacrifices are made for what the funniest next scene could be, rather than an engaging story.

If you were to go into “The Happytime Murders” expecting traditional Muppet jokes in a slightly more mature world, you will be shocked. Not to be taken seriously, the film has moments of comedy that will remain with you well past leaving the theater. With plot twists that were actually surprising, a non-stop flow of cultural reference jokes, and consistent critiques of expectations for the Muppets, “The Happytime Murders” is overall enjoyable to watch, if not a little vapid and lacking in story.

Rating: 3/5 sails







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