REVIEW: Happytime Murders (2018)

The Happytime Murders is directed by Brian Henson and revolves around an LAPD cop and a PI puppet trying to solve a murder mystery involving an old cast of characters from a hit TV show.

I went into The Happytime Murders expecting a guaranteed evening of gut-busting laughter. I was disappointed to leave the auditorium with a sour, stale taste in my mouth. This had the potential to be so funny, but instead it fell so painfully flat.

Brian Henson (son of the late Jim Henson) has taken the puppetry work, lending the artistry to a charmless, redundant, predictable and clichéd comedy. This movie gave me one or two chuckles here and there, but that’s the extent of my positive response, as the rest of the film is nothing short of terribly lazy.

The plot sees a bickering duo trying to solve a murder mystery that starts to make no sense as it goes along and the culprit was so easy to deduce that it left me cold and frustrated.

This movie is trying to be a murder mystery, a buddy cop comedy and a pseudo character piece for its main puppet character Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) who’s “haunted” by a crucial error he made in the past. All of this is wrapped up in a raunchy tone, which made such a mess of the comic timing and the little character development that existed.

Barretta as the voice for the puppet Phil Phillips was very dull. He’s trying to play the down-on-his-luck PI who for some reason has a noir-esque voiceover played at certain points of the story. Melissa McCarthy should stop playing the same stereotype she’s been playing for her entire career, and there is absolutely no character here. She’s the same loud potty-mouthed asshole she’s always been playing and it’s past time that she actually starts trying something different for a change.

The movie tries to juggle being a buddy cop comedy, a murder mystery and pseudo character piece in the vain of a vulgar comedy, but Brian Henson has absolutely no idea of how to execute any of this with a sense of style, proper humour or charm. A movie can be vulgar and still funny, but this movie isn’t that funny, and instead it feels awkward to sit through.

It feels way too reliant on being vulgar and it never allows the actors and the puppets to be organically funny. The writing is terrible, the direction is completely confused, and it’s largely unengaging and dissonant. I wanted to laugh, but all I got was disappointment.

By Seán Mac G.

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