Director: Brian Henson
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale
Release Date: December 4, 2018
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 6.5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
The Happytime Murders is a filthy comedy set in the underbelly of Los Angeles where puppets and humans coexist. Two clashing detectives with a shared secret, one human (Melissa McCarthy) and one puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the former cast of a beloved classic puppet television show. Also starring Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, and Joel McHale, this raunchy comedy is being hailed by critics as “hilarious, wickedly original and crazily quirky” (Neil Pond, Parade).
Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson himself and director of such notable outings as ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ invites you a world where humans and puppets coexist, to explore what goes down when the cameras stop rolling and kiddies aren’t around. ‘The Happytime Murders’ follows puppet and private eye Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta) who is forced to reteam with his human ex-partner Connie Edwards (McCarthy) in order to investigate a string of puppet murders that seem to be linked to a hit television show from years prior. As the fluffy bodies continue to drop and the killings begin hitting home for Phil, this unlikely pair with plenty of prior issues still looming between them must uncover the motive and perpetrator of this grisly set of crimes before the wrong person (or puppet) ends up locked away for them.
Directed by Brian Henson (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island) from a screenplay by Todd Berger (Cover Versions, It’s A Disaster) which was based upon a story by Berger and Dee Austin Robertson, Henson does a more than capable job at the helm of ‘The Happytime Murders’ smoothly guiding along the goofy and twisted fun. The film also features a strong comedic cast that includes Melissa McCarthy (The Heat), Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Joel McHale (Ted), Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect) and Leslie David Baker (TV’s The Office US) along with the voice talents of Bill Barretta (Muppets Most Wanted), Dorien Davies (TV’s Word Party), Kevin Clash (TV’s Sesame Street), Drew Massey (TV’s Sid the Science Kid) and more, with the majority offering fairly capable and fitting performances in each of their respective roles.
‘The Happytime Murders’ is a goofy, over the top and vulgar twist on the happy family puppet flicks we all know and while it doesn’t quite manage to hit all of the marks or deliver too much in the way of originality, it embraces its ridiculous nature and ends up coming together into a quite enjoyable and frequently hilarious misadventure that’s still worth taking. Capably guided along by Brian Henson, it does a great job of twisting up the happy and nasty aspects into something quite amusing and even fairly clever at times. The generally funny and well selected cast naturally doesn’t do the movie any harm either, helping tremendously to make this one work as well as it does. While nowhere near perfect, it’s also certainly not the dull and unpleasant mess many would lead you to believe, especially for those who have seen the trailers and have a pretty good idea of precisely what they’re getting into beforehand. I’d definitely encourage anyone who was already the slightest bit interested in this one but hasn’t yet had the pleasure to try and give ‘The Happytime Murders’ a chance, even just at some point down the road when convenient; odds are that you’ll end up having a fair amount of fun with it at the absolute least.
Overall, ‘The Happytime Murders’ is a consistently fun, over the top and often hilarious look at the darker nature of the “puppet world” and its interaction with humanity. The film often relies a bit too heavily on familiar ideas and patterns which detracts from the otherwise clever aspects within, but even with its faults (for which it has its share), it certainly doesn’t lack in fun and laughs. While it’s probably safe to say that this one won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I would recommend ‘The Happytime Murders’ to those who have been looking forward to it, along with anyone who appreciates a raunchy, unapologetic and in your face comedy that never pulls its punches. For those already intrigued to begin with it should stand a pretty good chance of at least proving worth ninety minutes of your time and the cost of a rental.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Happytime Murders’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks great altogether and provides a sharp, clean and colorful presentation from start to finish, with no significant faults or issues to be found throughout. It holds up smoothly even during the darker and more heavily populated moments, never allowing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a fantastic high definition video presentation from Universal that shouldn’t have any trouble satisfying fans of the film.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This multichannel soundtrack adds its share of fun to the overall experience and delivers a clean, crisp and fairly active audio presentation throughout. It regularly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to send music, bullets, crowd chatter and plenty more throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, and never conflicting with any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously. Overall, this is a solid 7.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that delivers in every way necessary of it and sounds consistently great along the way.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The Happytime Murders’ includes an ‘Audio Commentary with Director Brian Henson and Bill Barretta’, in addition to a collection of ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the movie (running approximately 14 minutes in length altogether), plus a ‘Gag Reel’ (running approximately 3 minutes) and ‘Line-O-Rama’ (approximately 3 minutes). Also included are a few brief Behind the Scenes Featurettes exploring different aspects and challenges of bringing the film to life including ‘Virtual Environments’ (approximately 2 minutes), ‘Avatar Demo’ (3 minutes) and a ‘VFX Breakdown’ (4 minutes). ‘2 Theatrical Trailers’ (both a red and green band trailer; each running approximately 2 minutes) for the movie are also included.