When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I was heavily affected by the Muppets, but then again most people my age were. For us the goodness that was Kermit and the gang, it made us all want to be part of “The Rainbow Connection”. A question I never asked myself though is what happens outside the rainbow, and if there is enough material there outside a skit or two to show what puppet life is like on the other side of the tracks.
The biggest thing you learn rather quickly about The Happytime Murders is that it is indeed not easy being green or any other color of felt for that matter. In this reality, puppets are alive but looked at as not real and are treated like that. For Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) life has been hard, where once he was a up and coming star in the police force, he now works as a private investigator taking less than desirable cases. Once such case has landed on his desk and while tracking down a lead he finds himself in the middle of a puppet ‘hit’. It is in the aftermath of this crime that Phil runs into his former partner, Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), as the two are not on good terms. Phil soon realizes that the targets of these hits all happen to be puppets from a once popular TV show. Tracking the clues Phillips and Edwards must figure out who is after the Happytime Gang members, while at the same time try and get over their rocky past.
It didn’t take much for me to be on board with The Happytime Murders, I mean puppets using four letter words that have nothing to do with love? Color me intrigued, as it is certainly untapped material. My only fear was that the trailer was going to go all out and show you all the best parts, but my fears were laid to rest as there is tons more adult-themed craziness in the film. Coming up with this story you might think there were a lot of nights involving alcohol for writers Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson if nothing else. The humor shines when the film is at its raunchiest, a place where some great one liners are delivered that might have you squirting liquids through your nose with laughter. You also get good Melissa McCarthy here, since her career is filled with performances that go from hot to not. And even though the laughs are plenty, the film does stumble in the well worn tread of the “buddy-cop” movie. Which unfortunately is a large percentage of the running time, since it’s a mysterious crime that is being solved. Sure there are some good insults between the two foul-mouthed cops, but the story kind of goes flat when we are just following the pair as they do their job. Director and son of Muppet legend Jim Henson, Brian Henson brings a steady balance of good times to make up for that flatness that the The Happytime Murders delivers as it finally gives us a glimpse of what puppets do when the camera is off, and the kids go to bed.