Director: Brian Henson
Story: Todd Berger, Dee Austin Robertson
Producers: Brian Henson, Jeffrey Hayes, Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Leslie David, Baker, Joel McHale.
As a boy, director Brian Henson would often visit his dad after school on the set of Sesame Street where he was inspired by the extreme banter of the comedians behind the scenes, each bent on being more outrageous than the other. So, this satirical, adults only version is awash with profanity and lewdness. Be warned!
Set on the mean streets of an LA where humans and puppets coexist, with the ‘meat sacks’ as top dog and the ‘socks’ (‘don’t ever call a puppet a sock’) subsisting in ‘the stuffing ghetto’, the movie opens with puppet Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) hot on the trail of a blackmailer.
The blackmailer has cut the first letter on the ransom note from the latest issue of ‘Puppet Pussy Party magazine’ and Philips has traced the magazine to ‘Vinnie’s Puppet Pleasure Land’ (You were warned!), and is nosing around behind the counter when the fuzz starts to fly.
With the bodies piling up, Philips finds himself at the centre of the carnage, and the only way he can save his fellow ‘felt’ from the assassin is to put aside his regret and hostility and team up with his ex-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy).
At the heart of the story is a stray bullet. Its rickety path has seen Philips busted down from highly-decorated LAPD cop to lowly private investigator, and Edwards, who has remained in the job, is left seething. Not only was she almost fatally wounded but, and perhaps even more distressing to her, she lost her partner and is unable to cope with the anger and sense of betrayal she now feels.
While Philips accepts his lot with stoicism, Edwards is a woman scorned and has given in to her most self-destructive impulses, behaving with reckless abandon among senior cops and trigger-happy crooks alike and giving herself up to the monster of all sugar addictions.
Edwards not only scoffs down humungous quantities of ‘Grade A sucrose’, she snorts it through a red liquorice straw.
Even if much of the humour in this movie is of the schoolboy-behind-the-bike-sheds type, the chequered bromance between the two leads creates the emotional core.
While the Muppets in the earlier series could rely on broad body gestures and voice to pull off their gags, even greater nuance is required of the fluff and felt constructs in the adult production if they are to evoke subtle emotions like pathos and the yearning for a lost love.
Although The Happytime Murders is not an overly sophisticated movie, it does have a deeper social undercurrent, referencing issues that include racism and bigotry, acceptance and the true gift of friendship.
If you like your smut laid on with a trowel in a movie that’s, ‘fluffy and good on the inside’, then this comedy/crime drama will definitely appeal. Plus, the behind the scenes/blooper reel at the end is a bonus. Not only does it give a sense of the exacting work it takes to bring a puppet to life (although the men in the green space suits had me bamboozled at first), just for a moment, we see this world through the eyes of a boy waiting for his dad.
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