In the history of the friendly Muppet empire by Jim Henson, there’s always been a dark streak. This streak is not only exhibited within the Muppet franchise but is also showcased in movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. While fans treated these movies as family-friendly material, Jim Henson considered them as vehicles to portray stories in all genres. His son Brain is now unfettered by the Muppet name as he breathes life into The Happytime Murders movie as a fuzzy and fast R-rated romp.
The Happytime Murders Story
In a world where human and puppet live side by side, Bill Barretta (Phil Philipps) is a former disgraced cop who makes a living as a private eye. By taking a case that seems like a simplistic ransom play, he soon finds himself in the middle of a murder string which is connected to the Happytime Gang children’s television show. It’s going to take tough fluff to solve this case along with discipline to reunite with his former estranged partner to successfully crack the mystery behind The Happytime Murders.
While The Happytime Murders story is actually rather basic, writers Dee Austin Robertson and Todd Berger, fortunately, remembered to include a story. So while fans will enjoy a simplistic mystery plot, with several personal beats that stem from the detective noir genre, its structure is basic enough that it doesn’t break down under its true purpose. This purpose is essentially a skeletal story where loads of puppet gags hang from and when its time for jokes to fly, the film allows them to play out in full force. Furthermore, there are loads of gags, in true Muppet fashion, that parody everything from Basic Instinct to cop dramas which pay homage to every influence with a tongue planted in the cheek of this puppet-loving movie.
A Fresh Dose of Unexpected Things
There’s plenty of unexpected things that you wouldn’t expect from the puppets in The Happytime Murders. However, for those that followed the post-Muppet career of director Brain Henson will know that it is his bread and butter. Even though the movie is rather raunchy, certainly earning the R-rating, it never gives the impression that its just throwing in content for the sake of mischief without a purpose. All the jokes work perfectly in the move as they create a world where muppets are far more human than ever before. It’s also refreshing that the movie is only an hour and 30 minutes in length which allows a vicious pace of story and gags to blur past in quite an entertaining manner without getting repetitive or stale.
The most impressive thing about The Happytime Murders is certainly the way in which it commits to the premise through the human cast performances and on the page. Melissa McCarthy is basically game for anything which further sells the extreme behaviour which is coupled with felt creatures. Fans will instantly believe that a world between puppets and humans can actually work and that’s a true testament to the on-screen performances by the actors and the puppets that are always present.