The Happytime Murders

Drew's Hi-Res headshot
Drew Russom

China Town with Muppets

I have no idea what have watched this week, that is not entirely true. Happy Time Murders is a weird mash up of China Town meets the Muppets. All of my childhood memories have been perverted by the idea of puppet porn shops, sugar consumption like a literal heroin addiction, and an interesting use of silly string. All in all this is a noir detective story that you would see in the afore mentioned China Town, the Big Sleep, and Double Indemnity, but with Jim Henson puppets. The big difference is the Melissa McCarthy style humor which did have up and downs, but still worked to the film’s benefit.

The film is set in the most iconic city in any detective film, the city of Angels, Los Angeles. We are introduced to the city by a narration by our main character, Phil Phillips. Through the narration we see both the beauty and the dirty underbelly of Los Angeles namely the discrimination of the puppet population in the city. Phil Phillips is a former cop that through a grave mistake in his life forced him to retire from the force, and now works as a private investigator. After a redhead walks into his door, Phil takes on a case that entangles him in a much more sinister plot, and brings Phil face to face with his greatest mistake.

You are probably wondering how Melissa McCarthy plays into this film, with her particular style of comedy, quite well actually. In the beginning, Melissa plays a fellow cop who obviously has contention with Phil and has history with former police officer. The quips were on point throughout the beginning, and some that made me laugh myself silly. However, somewhere in the middle there were some skits that dragged a very beats to long. If I would quantify the amount of jokes that landed to the amount that did not, about ninety percent landed, and ten percent did not resonate with me.

Phil Phillips and Melissa play well off of each other, both when they are at odds and when they working together. Melissa is the reason why I forget that she interacting with an object that is being controlled by another human being. I see her and another living creature that so happens to be filled with stuffing. The characters of the puppets are not just silly, or just there to crack jokes, you actually feel like these are well “fleshed out” characters. While you could argue that most of these details are transplanted from the characters in other noir films, the same can be said with many other film entries in any genre.

Since I mentioned it, the puppeteering in the film is on point, and very well hidden or masked over by the talented editors in post production. We constantly see the feet of the puppets walking, or even running through the environment, but I digress back to my original thought. The way that the puppets interact with each other and with the other human actors is very well synchronized and helps sale to us that these are living things. By the time the conclusion of the film rolls around, you are involved enough with the plot to see it through, and when the twist occurs you will not see it coming until you look back in your mind’s eye and realize that was in front of you the whole time. This is a great sign of a mystery that the clues are put in front of you in beginning, and you can go back and see the details.

In my opinion, this is a great film that you should go see, but probably one that you will go out and buy on DVD, just depends on your taste of comedy. My idea is that a comedy, for example Tommy Boy, is a film that has so many jokes, but tugs at your heart and involves you with the characters; Happy Time Murders checks all of my boxes. However, not everyone likes it’s style of crude humor, and while unique, it may not be the most unique film this year. It was a welcome surprise, just like Hitman’s Body Guard, it didn’t give away all of the good skits or jokes in the trailer, and had me leave satisfied with the money I had spent to see the film, but I don’t feel compelled to go out and get the film when it eventually hits the shelves. Overall, worth getting a few friends together for a good time, or even a rent, after that is up to you.

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