The Happytime Murders Review: Puppets outperform people in this noir-styled comedy.
Puppets outshine people in every aspect of The Happytime Murders and while it achieves the vulgar comedic vibe it goes for, it basically copies every trope and story beat in the film noir genre.
Set in a world where puppets and people coexist, puppet detective Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is discredited by the local police force after being unable to shoot a puppet and is forced to become a private eye. However, Phillips is forced to come back into action when the cast of a puppet/people television show begin to be killed off. Now he must work with his former human partner, Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), to solve the murders and stop whoever is committing them.
Typically, when you see strong comedic actresses like Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and Elizabeth Banks, you would think they would undoubtedly steal the show. However, this isn’t the case for The Happytime Murders as they aren’t just sidelined as a whole, but they really aren’t that funny either. I constantly found myself laughing at the slew of puppets on-screen rather than any of the people.
The voice acting for the puppets is excellent and there are plenty of lines and moments that everyone will find funny. It’s pretty rare to see a film where puppets get to be this vulgar and it’s a film that isn’t for kids. The puppeteering is also top-notch and shows that we are clearly far from still using puppets on strings. There’s even a pre-credits featurette that showcases how they did all of the puppeteering and effects for the film and it’s honestly pretty impressive.
The Happytime Murder’s more vulgar humor can be a little overboard at times, but is pretty effective most of the time. It makes it stand out amongst other works of Brian and Jim Henson. The looks of all the puppets are also incredibly unique and add some very fun humor into each scene.
The story, though, is basically every sort of detective or film noir movie that has ever existed. It sort of spoofs on the genre, but basically uses every trope in the book to try to make laughs and have some type of cohesive story. This ultimately ends up making the film extremely predictable and more often than not had me groaning and rolling my eyes.
This group really needs to do more movies, just any kind of sequels to The Happytime Murders. It has the comedic chops and visual aesthetics to please audiences, but a mediocre story and performances that won’t warrant much desire to see more.