Bill Barretta, better known as the voice of Swedish Chef, Rowlf The Dog or Pepe The Prawn from The Muppets, is Phil Philips. The first, and last, puppet detective in this parallel universe whereby puppets are real people but treated like second class citizens.
Melissa McCarthy (“St. Vincent”, “Spy”) is Phil’s human partner and someone who now has a deep hatred for him after he failed to shoot a puppet who was holding her hostage. Phil tried, but missed and McCarthy claimed Phil missed on purpose.
Phil was kicked out of the police and a law was brought in to prevent any puppets from serving as officers ever again. Phil became a private investigator and starts work on his latest case for Sandra, Dorien Davies (“Word Party (TV)”, “Splash And Bubbles”).
But not everything is as it seems and when the cast from a popular puppet TV show, The Happytime Gang, begin to get bumped off, the two officers are thrown together again by Lieutenant Banning, Leslie David Baker (“The Office (TV)”, “Puppy Dog Pals (TV)”), to solve the case.
The Happytime Murders is brought to you by writer Todd Berger (“Kung Fu Panda: Secrets Of The Masters (Short)”, “The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol (Short)”) and director Brian Henson (“Muppet Treasure Island”, “Sid The Science Kid (TV)”).
The movie sticks closely to well-worn cop movie formulas of old; a shouty, larger than life captain, one partner being down at heel, the other with their own set of vices, voiceover and, of course, a ‘dame’.
It also, very loosely, or perhaps that should be lightly, veers into territories we’ve seen with Netflix’s Bright and District 9. That of a species other than human, in a human world, being treated as second-class citizens.
Of course, this being a comedy, and an adult one at that, it treads these boards with such a light touch that it would be easy to miss it, a lot of people probably will.
Speaking of comedy, The Happytime Murders is funny, as long as you like gross-out humour. This isn’t a thinking person’s film, it’s a film that teenagers will like. Sex gags and swearing for swearing sake abound as well as an ongoing gag about puppets main vice being sugar.
I’m never really impressed by Melissa McCarthy’s performances and here it’s no different. You have to give her credit for her acting alongside a stuffed toy but otherwise, it’s the same old McCarthy, great if you dig her.
The puppets are ok, you don’t really get the broad spectrum you do in say The Muppets, also, the puppets themselves haven’t moved on since the last Muppets film you’ve seen. This is both surprising and a shame, why not move things along a little for a new generation?
The Happytime Murders isn’t as bad as everyone is making out, I mean, it’s not great, but I’ve seen far worse movies. As long as you’re not expecting Shakespeare or even Michael Bay, and you don’t mind sex gags involving puppets, you’ll be fine.
Also published on Medium.