More Like The Crappytime Murders, Am I Right?
Yes, I’m right.
This is not one of those posts wherein I wonder about things, where I review and I consider and I contemplate many things. This is one of those posts whereI moan about how terrible something is, and the subject of this ire and moan is The Happytime Murders.
Yeah, I know I haven’t posted in a while. I don’t really do summers; the weather has been far too warm to do anything in Ireland, and I’m maybe discovering that perhaps I still have a bit of uncomfortable emotional baggage after diagnosis and treatment. Four years ago today, I started radiotherapy; seeing this film makes me wonder if it was worth it.
I just used a cancer moan in reference to a movie: even I’m shocked and a bit uncomfortable that I went there. And that is how uncomfortably disappointing and bad this film proved.
As far as trailers go, this was a good trailer: puppets (that are nearly muppets) saying rude words, doing drugs, crude sex jokes, you know, the type of shit that gets you a somewhat restricted rating so the cinema isn’t full of kids and their parents. (Parents are worse than kids. Yes, I said it.)
Having watched the trailer again just now, two hours after the end of the film, I can say it with confidence: this trailer features all of the best beats from this fim. That’s right, these 169 seconds are better than the hour and a half of my life I wasted watching this film.
Don’t get me wrong: there is promise, subtle moments that make me think that someone involved in the production of this film recognised a meaning in the narrative. But these moments are few and far between, forgotten mere moments later.
Phil Philips, a disgraced-(puppet)cop-turned-hard-boiled-detective is approached by Sandra White, a sex-addicted (and implied sexy) puppet who has received a threatening letter suggesting her sexy infidelities have been discovered and will be outed if she doesn’t pay up the money.
I have a huge problem with this beat from the very beginning: Sandra. Is. Not. Sexy.
Yeah, I’m talking about puppets and muppets, but work with me for a moment. Is it, or is it not, necessary that a femme fatale be actually…you know, femme?
Let’s compare with Jessica Rabbit: like, we’ve all been there. Deny it all you want, but you looked at that woman and you saw that appeal. She wasn’t real, she wasn’t even human and yet here was this stunning sexy dangerous woman who would manipulate a man to do her dangerous bidding. Yeah, the implication is that male characters are too busy thinking with his dick to recognise the threat.
The thing with such a femme fatale is that this should extend to the audience as well, regardless of their gender and sexuality: even the straight female or gay male viewer or reader should look at or imagine this woman and understand the attraction and appeal.
Sandra is…a puppet. Her sexual preferences are discussed at length in a fashion that completely forgets the point of show-don’t-tell in a narrative. Such a conversation is difficult to portray: after all, both Sandra and Phil are puppets and facial expression isn’t exactly easy to convey in such a character. But the film never really tries to prove how or why Sandra could be such an attractive woman. Phils has previously dated Elizabeth Banks’ character Jenny Peterson, a former TV star and now-burlesque dancer, but the film pays more attention to the puppet- reactions to Jenny’s sexuality than trying to make her datable.
Phil is a good auld hard-boiled detective, so whether he’s thinking with his penis or not, he takes Sandra’s case. While trying to place one of the fonts used in Sandra poison-pen letter, Phil is drawn to an adult shop where he runs into Mr Bumblypants, one of the previous stars of TV show The Happytime Gang, a show which also starred Phil’s brother and Jenny. The shop is attacked with multiple puppets shot and killed, Bumblypants among them. As the only surviving person in the building, Phil becomes a suspect and meets his former partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy.) The relationship between the two of them should be easy to understand based on that word former.
When Phil’s brother is killed (ripped apart by dogs, because dogs look on the puppets as toys. Oh, isn’t this hilarious? No. No it’s not), Phil and Edwards realise mid-argument that someone is going after the stars of the The Happytime Gang, and the rest of the cast is probably next.
This offers the promise of overly-decadent Hollywood retirees in the Bojack Horseman-style, but that turns into boring interactions between meaningless characters as we are briefly introduced to the former stars of The Happytime Gang who are then killed in a fashion that makes it looks like Phil’s responsible.
Obviously, he isn’t: spoiler alert, not-at-all sexy Sandra is responsible.
Scrap that, I don’t even care about this being a spoiler: the film isn’t good enough to worry about spoilers. In fact, this if the type of film that, if it were on at Christmas and I was hungover and had to stand up to change the channel, I’d stand up and change the channel.
Coming from the Henson family who’ve brought us the various Muppet movies over the years, there should be more to this film: there should be a heart or a soul or something that makes me not want to just fucking hate it and regret the time that I spent watching it.
I laughed once. I hated the characters. There was nothing visually interesting. There were no narrative beats that made me go “oh, that’s interesting.”
What’s even more irritating is that The Happytime Murders actually has the vaguest of promise: trailer aside, the movie creates a world wherein the puppets are second-class citizens, with so much of the early world-building narrative creating thinly-veiled racial commentary. This significantly takes away from whatever comedy the movie is trying to produce, and the comedy itself takes away from whatever promise there is in that drama.
I didn’t think that puppets could do racial commentary, but I thought they could do entertainment.
Based on the 90 minutes that I spent with this film, that’s only some of the time.
Also published on Medium.