Review: The Happytime Murders

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: A disgraced puppet cop-turned P.I is forced to re-team with his old partner to find out who’s murdering the cast of a former hit TV show, “The Happytime Gang”.

REVIEW: THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is a project that’s been kicking around Hollywood for about a decade now, with actresses such as Cameron Diaz and Katherine Heigl all being attached at one time or another. Seemingly a passion project for producer/director Brian Henson, the son of Muppets creator Jim Henson and also the director of THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL and MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, it’s the first big film The Jim Henson Company has made since selling the Muppet rights to Disney. Lewd and crude, there’s something a little grotesque about the family brand being used to market something like this, but I digress.

The fact is an R-rated, gross-out Muppet movie could have worked had it simply been clever and funny. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is neither of those things. Instead, it just assumes that puppets saying f*ck, doing drugs, and jizzing silly string will be enough to make audiences laugh, but there’s nothing else to it. In fact, I’d wager the only decent laughs in this come from co-star Melissa McCarthy doing her usual shtick, which is wearing thin but it still funnier than anything the puppets do.

To give credit where it’s due, I’ll say this – the puppet work is good. In fact, the movie ends with outtakes showing how the big action scenes were done, and fair enough – it’s accomplished on that end. You believe the puppets exist in this imagined world. But, that still doesn’t make them funny.

The lion’s share of the screen time goes to puppet anti-hero Phil Philips, well-voiced by veteran puppeteer Bill Baretta. He’s your typical tough guy ex-cop, seemingly modeled on Bruce Willis in THE LAST BOY SCOUT. He’s no Roger Rabbit and is probably too generic looking a puppet to really capture anyone’s imagination. McCarthy, as his anti-puppet ex-partner, works overtime to give the film some energy, with the twist that she has a puppet liver and as a result, a crippling addiction to sugar (which she snorts like cocaine) a funny addition. It’s funnier than anything else in the film.

All of the running jokes, particularly involving Joel McHale’s FBI agent, fall flat. It’s also sloppy in a lot of ways, with McCarthy and Phillips saying they were partners twenty years ago in one scene, only moments later to say it was twelve, while other scenes make it seem like it was only months ago. Considering how STX was high on making this a franchise, it’s strange they didn’t spend more time getting it right (similar to their MILE 22 – which tanked last week).

I’ll say this – if you found the trailer funny you’ll probably feel the same way about the movie. If, like me, it made you cringe at how unfunny it was, stay away. The jokes don’t work any better in the context of the film. Truly, this is one of the worst movies of the year, and I laughed a whole lot more during the similarly panned SUPER TROOPERS 2.

The Happytime Murders



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.