Movie Review: ‘The Happytime Murders’: Henson Jr. Besmirches Family Legacy

By Mark Jackson, Epoch Times
August 28, 2018 Updated: August 30, 2018

R | 1h 31min | Action, Comedy, Crime | 24 August 2018 (USA)

What’s the difference between “Christopher Robin” and “The Happytime Murders,” both in movie theaters now and both featuring stuffed toys that “act” with actual people?

The former has a good message for children but will bore adults silly, and the latter is far, far, far too nasty for children but will bore adults silly nonetheless.

Melissa McCarthy stars in “The Happytime Murders.” (Hopper Stone/Motion Picture Artwork/STX Financing, LLC)

Brian Henson, son of Jim, creator of the legendary Muppets, takes over his father’s creations and basically besmirches the legacy by dragging it down into extreme moral turpitude. It’s like he’s some kind of entitled teenager stealing dad’s prized, spit-polished Chevelle and pulling donuts in a muddy cow pasture before totaling it into a telephone pole over on old MacDonald’s farm.

Well actually, when I think of the Muppets, I think more of an avocado-green Gremlin; but still, show some respect, Junior. Muppets were good for kids. Nobody needs X-rated Muppetry.

It’d be one thing if the film were actually funny. Bona fide funniness goes a long way toward rectifying morally questionable material, but there’s nothing worse than selling out and getting nasty for the sake of laughs, and then committing the ultimate showbiz sin of being boring on top of it. Boring and gross. Just wait till I get to the star rating. I can’t wait to get to the star rating.

Muppet as a Minority

“Happytime” has much in common with “Chinatown” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” The Muppets (known as “felties”) are second-class citizens who live side by side in a world with humans (known as “meat bags”).

Human-versus-Muppet prejudice abounds in a noir-ish Los Angeles, much like the toons in “Roger Rabbit.” And, like marginalized folks everywhere, the Muppet population drowns its collective despair in sex and drugs.

So, Muppet Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) was once the first feltie policeman ever. Now his baby-blue “skinned,” black-haired self has been relegated to scraping by as a private eye, like Jack Nicholson’s character in “Chinatown.”

Joel McHale stars in “The Happytime Murders.” (Hopper Stone/Motion Picture Artwork/STX Financing, LLC)

Phil decides to take on the case of a mousey female feltie (Dorien Davies) whose librarian exterior cloaks an inner sex fiend. Somebody’s blackmailing her.

This she-Muppet will eventually re-create the notorious scene from “Basic Instinct” that made Sharon Stone a superstar. It’s much more disturbing than one would think, seeing as how all we’re talking about here is some felt, some cotton, and some thread.

Joel McHale stars in “The Happytime Murders.” (Hopper Stone/Motion Picture Artwork/STX Financing, LLC)

Well, somebody starts assassinating all the cast members of “The Happytime Gang,” a feltie comedy show for children. This calls for a re-teaming of Phil with his former L.A.P.D. human cop partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy). Only problem is that they stereotypically hate each other after having a falling-out over a misunderstanding.

If you really think hard about it, you can figure out the rest of the plot without having to see the movie. And there you have the dirty-Muppets-movie synopsis.

Who Can Act With Muppets?

Melissa McCarthy stars in “The Happytime Murders.” (Hopper Stone/Motion Picture Artwork/STX Financing, LLC)

Melissa McCarthy can. There are, like, three jokes in the whole movie that are truly funny, and she delivers all of them. And they all have to do with standard put-downs, except that they utilize Muppet realities. Like: You’re mother’s gonna cut you up, sew you into a jacket, and wear you. Something like that. Well, you hadda be there. It was funny at the time.

Maya Rudolph (L) and Melissa McCarthy (C) star in “The Happytime Murders.” (Hopper Stone/Motion Picture Artwork/STX Financing, LLC)

There are other funny actors in this movie, Maya Rudolf and Elizabeth Banks, but their comedic talents are wasted. The best thing in the movie is the credit roll, which shows green-screen scenes with green-wrapped puppeteers at work. It’s always fascinating to see the elaborate pretzels puppeteers have to twist themselves into to get puppets to do normal and mundane things.

Suffice it to say, they’re not actually trying to get these particular Muppet puppets to do all that many normal puppet things. And for boys between the ages of 10 and 14, that can actually provide truly hilarious fun—but what’s added here is a level of X-ratedness that only a pervy adult mind is privy to, which still has the potential to harm a relatively naive 10-year-old mind. Of course, I’m thinking of my own childhood. Kids nowadays are exposed to much worse, much earlier. Still, that doesn’t make it right. Somebody revoke young Henson’s Screen Actors Guild card.

And now it is my great pleasure to award the unprecedented star rating: zero out of five stars for unparalleled, iconic perversity and destroying a legacy.

‘The Happytime Murders’
Director: Brian Henson
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David Baker, Joel McHale
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Release Date: Aug. 24
Zero stars out of 5