There’s some smiles to be had, but not in the way it should have brought them
Because Sesame Street is such a grandiose name in the world of children’s television, The Happytime Murders seems to believe it needs to become its antithesis to enable the formation of any sort of individual identity. This, naturally, leads it down a path of crude humour and guns, and for however much effort it exerts, it just feels like a dirty old limp balloon.
Disgraced ex-police officer Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) turned his hand to private detection when his licence was revoked by the force. Now struggling to find any cases of his own, a stranger turning up at his office door offering an intriguing mystery takes his full attention. That is until a masked intruder murders three puppets in a local porn shop, just metres from Phillips location. Now forced to work alongside former partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve a multiple murder mystery, the pair must set aside their pure hatred for each other, and track down an elusive and very dangerous killer.
The Happytime Murders very much misses the mark. The need to be provocative and impossibly rude makes it a difficult film to pull off, even with a cast full of puppets. The disconnect between puppets and reality isn’t strong enough to hold its own, making the plot seem overworked and under produced. There needed to be a greater sense of fiction about the creatures, rather than relying on silly jokes and purely bringing them into an almost entirely human world.
Of the few sections that truly work, the keener and tighter dialogue is the film at its best, and Melissa McCarthy is often the provider. McCarthy is particularly good at offering biting lines of comedy with a keenly abrupt delivery. Her rough and unpredictable character lends herself nicely to this style of delivery, but that shouldn’t take anything away from her performance.
Despite the occasional successful comedic venture, The Happytime Murders does struggle to utilise the puppets in any way other than as a cheap gimmick. They are no more than just a simple level of entertainment and really they should have been a wacky and fun addition to an original police comedy. Think Brooklyn 99 with puppets. Not Sesame Street with sex.
It’s easy to be hard on The Happytime Murders, and it certainly does deserve any criticism it gets for its conformity and closed-minded approach to creating a new modern comedy. There’s some smiles to be had, but not in the way it should have brought them, and not nearly enough for what the premise offered from its original announcement.
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