The Happytime Murders - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Happytime Murders Reviews

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Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
½ September 23, 2018
The Happytime Murders asks one question on repeat: is something inherently funny just because a puppet does it? As I feared from the marketing, this is strictly a one-joke movie, and that joke being the entire concept of puppets behaving badly.

In a world where puppets and humans live side-by-side, Private Investigator Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is investigating a series of grisly murders targeting the stars of a popular children's sitcom. His ex-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), is forced to work with Phillips as the bodies and felt pile up. Together they trace the killer amid seedy drug dealers, prostitutes, strippers, and criminals, all of them puppets.

For a depressing majority of the running time, the jokes are simply puppets swearing or puppets being randy. Very rarely will there be more thought given to the gags and setups. This reminded me of Seth MacFarlane's Ted wherein too much of the comedy was centered on a teddy bear doing things we don't normally associate a teddy bear doing. A puppet simply dropping an F-bomb is not a joke, just as a random person dropping an F-bomb is not a joke without some degree of setup and/or context. A puppet smoking is not funny on its own. A puppet drinking is not funny on its own. This is lazy writing that falls back on its surface-level shock value to compensate for the paucity of actual comedy. Too many jokes fizzle on screen, drawing at best the occasional generous chuckle. While you're watching The Happytime Murders, you're quite conscious of the fact that it should be funnier. You can feel the desperation on screen and the disappointment. I kept thinking, "Why did they settle for that joke? Why aren't they doing more with the possibilities of their premise? Oh great, now it's a joke about balls." An R-rated puppet cop movie starring Melissa McCarthy should not be this uninspired.

Let's tackle one scene emblematic of the film's best assets and its shortcomings. Early in the first act, our puppet P.I. visits a puppet porn store/theater/film set. As soon as he enters, the curtain is pulled back and we see an octopus vigorously milking a cow's udders, milky geysers freely spraying everywhere amid giddy cries. It's a memorable visual with obvious sexual connotations and it's one of the better moments to convey some degree of thought as far as developing the world of puppets. But then the scene just keeps going without any new development or complication. And then it keeps going. And then you realize that the filmmakers tapped out with the visual and had nothing else. The sequence at the porn store/theater/film set keeps sliding in more debauchery, especially with clips from an array of fetish films, a notable example being a fireman whipped by a Dalmatian dominatrix. Then in short order it becomes a murder scene and the fluff flies everywhere. Once again it becomes readily apparent how poorly handled the development process was with this film. There are puppets fighting, puppets doing drugs, puppets even having sex, but are there comic scenarios here? Infrequently. Without better crafting, the shock value naturally loses its impact and then the film gives up. It's front loaded with the most memorable transgressions, and then it settles into a fairly mediocre cop movie that you have to remind yourself is a comedy because... puppets?

Instead, what the viewer gets is pretty much a standard cop movie with some film noir elements emphasized as reference. There is some half-hearted commentary about discrimination against puppets and how they're seen as second-class citizens (like Bright). This too is dropped after the first act and the movie settles into a second-rate potboiler. If you remove the presence of puppets, too many scenes don't even present humor. It's more a cop movie than it is a comedy, and that realization perplexed and disappointed me. The lazy, crude sexual humor is a crutch they return to, though with diminished returns, as another attempt to jolt the lagging movie to life. It's a tedious affair where the imagination feels capped. You'll likely be reminded, as I was constantly, of the brilliant Who Framed Roger Rabbit? which tackled film noir tropes and cross-human integration. The difference is that Roger Rabbit thoroughly thought out its characters, plot, world, and satire, and I consider it to be one of the best-written films of all time. With The Happytime Murders, it has to resort to a Basic Instinct legs-crossing gag twice in 2018. This movie desperately needed a few more drafts from better skilled comedy writers to have more entertaining jokes than "puppet does non-puppet stuff."

McCarthy (Life of the Party) is drifting on autopilot, desperately looking for ways to make this enterprise funnier. Her improv intuition runs into conflict with the simple nature that puppeteering demands a lot of preparation, so there are less off-script riffs. This is your standard brash, profane, ball-busting McCarthy performance we've gotten to know but there's not a character here. Even in the realm of simplistic cop movie tropes, she's still never more than the irritable partner who develops a begrudging respect. There is one interesting aspect to her character that the film does so little with. In a flashback, we see that she was critically injured in the line of duty and had to have an emergency puppet liver donation. The only thing ever done with this is the allowance that McCarthy is now able to snort puppet drugs that would ordinarily kill humans. That is it. There's not even a joke related to this fact. It's another example of the film's deficiency of creativity.

The Happytime Murders is a one-joke movie that has far too little imagination. The lewd vulgarity gets boring and becomes indicative of the lazy writing all around, the mere appearance of anything naughty meant to goose the audience into thinking they're watching something really transgressive and provocative. The novelty wears off pretty quickly. Maya Rudolph as a cheerful secretary and the behind-the-scenes end credits were the best parts. What they're really watching is a mediocre cop movie strung together with the flimsiest of genre tropes and a scant chuckle. Without better comedic writing and setups, you're stuck with the story, and that's not a good decision. This is a witless movie that doesn't deserve its premise and is a waste of everyone's time. At my preview screening, I could hear a child's voice behind me and thought, "Oh my, a parent actually brought their child to see this movie? Did they not know?" That child never should have been in that theater, and not because of the raunchy content, but because that child deserved a better movie experience from their parent, a figure of trust.

Nate's Grade: C-
September 19, 2018
If you've seen the trailer, you've seen all of the funny bits.
September 17, 2018
The obvious appeal of this is watching muppets saying and doing raunchy things. Unfortunately, that shtick wears off really fast. I did laugh a few times, but a lot of the humour did not land for me. I didn?t mind how the murder mystery story played out. It?s clear from the blooper reel that the cast and crew had a fun time making this movie, but the final product did not match that enjoyment level.
September 17, 2018
Fantastically funny.
½ September 16, 2018
Terrible, just terrible. The script was obviously written by a 6th grader.
½ September 15, 2018
What do you get when you mix "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" with "Sausage Party" with "The Muppets"? You get a surprisingly serviceable raunchy comedy, albeit not being as great as I thought it could've been.
The Happytime Murders is set in a world where man and puppet walk side by side, and one puppet and one human have to work together to find the person responsible for the killings of former puppet TV stars. The film utilizes traditional noir elements through its main character detective Phil Phillips, a former cop now P.I. Elements such as the anti-hero (Phillips), the femme-fatale, and scene narration are featured. While a comedy at heart, the film relies on the aspects of classic noir films to help create its story and it's the better for it.
I liked Phil Phillips as the protagonist, I felt he was someone you could root for especially in a world full of prejudice towards the puppets (which added an unexpected political layer to the film). Melissa McCarthy was fine as his co-hort.
The comedy is often blunt and rash, absurd physical and sexual comedy. Other times it was pretty clever. Even in moments where I wasn't laughing, I would find myself acknowledging and grinning at what was said. However, going into the movie off of what I saw in the trailer, I expected the comedy to be even more raunchy than it actually was and that somewhat let me down (there might be something wrong with me). The movie has some of the shining WTF moments I came for, but maybe not enough.
While the film structure isn't anything special, it works and for the most part, is coherent. With how much I wanted the movie to be good, it isn't particularly easy for me to review without some bias. I can't say I was bursting from the seams watching Happytime Murders, but I still had fun with it. From what I can tell, I'm in the minority when I say I enjoyed the film but if you were intrigued by the trailer and/or are into really raunchy/offensive humor, there are worse movies you could take a chance on.
September 13, 2018
This move was not that bad. I went in knowing what to expect. I laughed throughout the movie and so did the audience. Yes, it was a little crude with it's raunchy humor, but it advertised that.
½ September 12, 2018
Is less than 1/2 a star an option? The trailer looked so funny! I love Mellissa McCarthy and edgy puppet humor(Like Avenue Q) but this was just raunchy and bad! Skip this one and save yourself some money and time!!(although the movie was really short so it didn't waste too much of my time!)
September 10, 2018
Not seen it but it?s good
September 9, 2018
Overall, this is a film that could have delivered so many jokes to a modern audience in 2018. With reused jokes that feel like they came from the 90's, it's hard to get a laugh from this film. Melissa McCarthy is also someone who I still respect, but she is by far greater than this film. For a film aimed at 15 year olds and up, the film is predictable and somewhat pointless.
- Finesse Movie Reviews
½ September 9, 2018
Better detective story than I had thought it would have. Elements, plot, and characters from Raymond Chandler and even Jo Nesbo, actually.

Reviewers seem a bit harsh and precious in the critiques It was better than I expected.
½ September 9, 2018
I thought this was pretty funny. The puppet vs human jokes were funny -- lighthearted comedy with some naughty innuendo.
September 9, 2018
A few good jokes, but very disappointing from the trailer on to the film
September 9, 2018
Funny and entertaining, exactly what you should be expecting from this type of movie
½ September 9, 2018
Don't Waste your money....only 7 people in our 6pm Friday movie theater and the Movie Speaks for itself. If you have seen the Trailer you have seen the movie. Here again it Shows that Melisa McCarthy will take any acting jobs for a paycheck...enough said.
September 9, 2018
It was an entertaining movie. I could have had more substance. But I did have alot of laugns watching it
September 9, 2018
Read lots of the reviews on here before going to see this one. Figured that people didn't like it due to super hard core R rated content. I'm 100% ok with that if it tickles my funnybone, so thought I would like it. Just like many of the "Pro" reviewers pointed out, it's not very good. To put it nicely. That being said, this was a good idea, and I swear this truly lousy movie was really close to being a BIG hit. Well, a ton of potential at the very least.
If I saw Melissa McCarthy on the street I sure as hell wouldn't give her any shit about this flick, but smile, nod, and feel lucky I saw a movie star up close.
September 8, 2018
Hilarious I loved it very much. Melissa McCarthy's role was brilliant. She is so talented.
½ September 8, 2018
Major let down. The most entertaining part of the movie was the IDEA, the premise which was presented in the trailer. I am actually SHOCKED that this movie SUCKED so bad. I literally did not organically LAUGH once. Fake laughed a couple of times at some clever moments but that's just because I wanted to laugh badly. There was no heart or soul to this movie. It seemed like a TAMED, raunchy crude comedy that could just deliver profanity and no comedy. This is the sibling of Sausage Party. Great idea, HORRIBLE movie. BORING! Dragged on a bunch. My friend kept looking at his phone. Good thing I used movie pass and didn't waste money on this LACKLUSTER film.
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