The Happytime Murders


The Happytime Murders  1/2

If the thought of an R-rated comedy starring puppets engaged in sexual acts, drug abuse and murder—directed by Jim Henson’s son Brian, no less—sounds like subversive fun, well, it should have been. Unfortunately, The Happytime Murders suffers from a deadening lack of laughter, coupled with characters (both human and hand-operated) who fail to engage. And even if this film hadn’t taken 10 years to reach the screen (Cameron Diaz, Katherine Heigl and Jamie Foxx had all been attached to the role that ultimately went to co-producer Melissa McCarthy), it would have still been derivative of the diseased muppets in Peter Jackson’s Meet the Feebles (1989) and the marionette antics of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004). But the film it most shamelessly steals from is Robert Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Happytime’s entire framework—a murder mystery set within a Los Angeles where humans and children’s characters co-exist—is ripped off wholesale from the 30-year-old Oscar winner. Bill Barretta (the man behind The Muppets’ Rowlf the Dog and the Swedish Chef) portrays Phil Philips, disgraced former partner of Detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy), and a second-class citizen whose only crime is being born a puppet. At least, I presume he was born; the film is hazy on the details of puppet biology, other than the fact that they explode into puffs of cotton when shot—or shoot silly string when aroused. And if these juvenile ideas arouse you, there’s more where those came from. Ahem. (At Assembly Row, Boston Common, Fenway, Seaport, Somerville, South Bay and in the suburbs.)

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