Know What Time It is? It’s Happy Time For Crude Humor and A Decent Mystery

The Happytime Murders Poster

            The Muppets, a cute, colorful, energetic display of puppetry that showed you could have imagination, wit and creativity all combine in an epic show that lasted for generations.  True, the puppets have dealt with lots of adult issues, but never did I think Jim Henson would see his creations dive into the world of tonight’s film.  Traditional lines are blurred as the modern meets the classic, twisting it into a new creation that holds loads of “potential”. Can the dark, murder mystery with puppets be awesome, or is it a Robot Chicken parody that falls flat on its’ face. Robbie K here to bring his thoughts on the first movie of the week, as he reviews:

 

Movie: The Happytime Murders (2018)

 

Director:

Brian Henson

Writers:

Todd Berger (screenplay by), Todd Berger (story by)

Stars:

Melissa McCarthyElizabeth BanksMaya Rudolph

 

 

LIKES:

 

The Soundtrack:  A soundtrack can make or break a part of the movie, and surprisingly this film succeeds in this aspect.  The music director picked a great variety of songs that help add some pep to the scenes, while also adding some comedy to the routine as well.  A well-timed pop song comes in at the most awkward times, while other songs mesh well with the theme of the scene.

 

The Acting:  Not award-winning roles, but the human cast succeeds in playing their roles and working alongside a puppet cast. Melissa McCarthycertainly gives justice to her immense screen time, and Maya Rudolphcleans up the scenes very well with her style of comedy.  The other secondary humans accomplish their goals as well, but it is these two who hold most of the human work.  In regards to the voice acting, too many voice actors to call out, but man did they bring their characters to life and capture the spirit of the Muppets as well.  Obviously the main puppet gets the most credit, but the others all bring the energy of puppets.

 

The Humor (at times):  You know there is a lot crammed into this movie in terms of jokes, and while not everything was a hit for me, it certainly had its moments that shined like, glittery pieces of felt.  Happytime murders gets props for clever pokes at popular culture, melding the modern-day crime obsession with the comedy of the kids puppet shows.  It’s these moments of clever content meeting the well-timed punch, while delivering with awesome voice acting that had me laughing the most.

 

The Mystery:  For a giant farce, the movie surprisingly has a good mystery at hand.  Predictable at times, the Happytime Murders have a cold hard case of murder, crime, and drama to try and uncover.  It dives deep and provides all the details in a nice format to help you solve the crime at hand.  Surprisingly, this was the component that kept me the most intrigued, almost like the rest of America and the trend of consistent crime dramas.

 

The Puppeteering:  You knew this was coming, but Happytime Murders gets my biggest nod for continuing the art of telling stories through puppet work. Jim Henson’s vision is alive and well, and the spirit of the arts is working strong in the number of stunts/scenes they put the main puppet through.  Dynamic motions are in Phil’s arsenal and with it they pulled out all the stops to make them flow in design and execution.  I agree, it’s not the grandest work that we’ve seen come out of Henson studios, but it is still a fantastic display nonetheless.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

Crossing the Line: The humor components are funny at times, but other times go a little over the top in their journey for a laugh. Happytime Murders gets a red label for a reason and heed their warnings about not taking kids, for there are many things they should not see.  Sure, the impressionable minds will pick up on the curse laden dialogue, but some lines will be a little grosser than funny for some. Again, I’ll admit that they had me laughing at moments, but other times made me cringe in discuss.

 

Underutilization of characters:  This is mainly towards the human characters, but Happytime murders really struggles to maximize the human cast more than they do.  This is especially true for the detectives and Elizabeth Banks, for these characters had some hard-hitting scenes, but often were left in the background. Why not use them more?  I guess they needed some more puppet time, but still… maybe some better integration.

 

Deeper Dive Into Story: The mystery is there, and all the clues are in the details, but this movie did slack a little on the story. It was almost as if they had taken a mystery/crime series and mashed them together to make a piecemeal mystery. There was deeper storytelling and use of these puppets waiting in the wings, but for the laughs and all the clever puppet design, these elements were sacrificed.  Perhaps a second installment will dive into more, but much of the limitations come from the fact that they didn’t balance the other characters more than they did.

 

The Trailers:  Another example of a movie ruined by the trailers, Happytime murders suffers from the combination of a short run time and much of the funny being spoiled in the advertising.  If you have seen at least two of the trailers, you have much of the heart of this movie revealed in regards to the comedy.  In addition, there are some hard clues in the trailer itself, so you’ve been warned to skim around the trailers as you best see fit.

 

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Happytime murders accomplishes its goal of being the inappropriate R rated Muppets show that some have longed for.  The clever, creativity, and adulteration are certainly a unique spin, and it brings its brand of comedy out in full force.  In this age where computers rule and puppeteers are left in the dust, this movie certainly proves this art can still be entertaining.  The bad news is that the movie’s short run time is one of the key weaknesses to the dislikes I mentioned, primarily in the trailers ruining much of the surprise and the storytelling needing more time to actually expand out.  Nevertheless, I admit this movie is fun to watch at times, but… it probably doesn’t merit a trip to theater. 

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Comedy/Crime: 6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

 

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Rolling Into Action/Drama Than Thriller

Mary

Tina Turner, made the big hit song that brought pep to step and got people rolling when she crafted the song Proud Mary.  Decades later, Hollywood is happy to bring a movie semi-inspired by the song, ready to storm this “holiday” weekend with another action/drama to stand up to The Commuter.  A great move was to hire Taraji P. Henson, a fantastic actress who has the edge for this kind of drama given her track record in this field.  But what else does this film have to offer given its low amount of advertising on cable and internet media?  Robbie K here to shed some light on the subject and help you choose your viewing pleasure.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Acting ChemistryOne thing I love about African-American movies is how well the cast fits together in whatever project they making.  Henson and crew feel like a mob family, the tension, the doubts, and the anger all similar to what I’ve seen in family affairs.  It seemed to come so naturally to them, no overstretching of their talents to make the closeness work, selling to me that they were indeed a family.  And when Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) joins the family, the young actor and Henson have another chemistry that seems naturally there complete with sass, pizazz, and edge.

 

The Writing:  While I’m normally not the biggest fan of sass, annoying attitude, or bitter anger as the primary qualities in a character, Proud Mary did a nice job balancing these qualities.  Their character development established the reasons for these attitudes, and the whole mafia element added the tension need to set the stage for these qualities.  Even though the callousness got a little eye rolling at times, (a diluted version of the Godfather), I appreciate the tension and using it to work with the chemistry as opposed to just shock value.  An even more impressive element, is that they were able to interject cursing into the lines without getting to the oversaturation point.  Utilized for emphasis and to express how bad a situation was, the writers/directors accomplished the task of how one should watch their mouth and not over utilize the slang.  Classy and edgy, a nice combination.

 

The Action:  Yep, action junkies like me love this category, and Proud Mary is able to accomplish this category quite well in terms of storytelling.  There are a couple of fantastic sequences to get the ball rolling, a nice blend of Taken and Wanted without the super gore factor.  While these gunslinger scenes might not be the selling points for some, this film keeps it relevant to the plot and not just a careless waste of resources to add excitement to the list.  The ending in particular will get you rolling like a river, with its emotional charge, character linkage, and pure on intensity of the scene. Plus, utilizing the theme song to amp up the   Again props to this film.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Incredibly rushed:  The problem with this film starts with a very rushed script, which is most likely due to the limited budget of the film.  From the start, Mary’s emotional dilemma is dropped without much buildup, reduced to a quick opening scene and nothing more.  Her career, her skills, her importance to the family, none of these have an inkling of development outside of a few scraps of dialogue tossed into the mafia like meetings that don’t last long. The background information on Danny’s issues, also a sliver of what it could be, just enough to get the point across, but lacking the power to pull your heart strings.  This fast pace keeps the drama entertaining, but it’s lacking in terms of storytelling.

 

Inconsistent Emotion: The other issue with this movie, is the emotional inconsistency in this film in regards to the characters.  Mary herself fluctuates between cold assassin, angry-ex, and mother love in a manner that represents some mood disorder.  You understand the reasons why, but you don’t see enough even spread of these emotions to get the depth of her character.  In regards to Danny, again the fluctuations are inconsistent as he goes from street hardened, gang busting vigilante to a whiny, arrogant brat whose about to drop tears.  Given more time, this movie might have had the ability to stretch out these emotional moments and balance out there characters more.  Fortunately, the actors are able to keep this roller coaster exchange in check, but it can’t save the direction the writers had them go.

 

Lackluster villains:  The term bark is worse than their bite has never been truer in a movie. Proud Mary is all about powerful families running their business and trying to keep their territories in check.  And like all the Mafia movies, you expect threats and dealing out those threats.  In Mary’s world though, these guys are all about making threats without acting on them, giving people quite a few chances before they start to make a motion.  Then you get to the action scenes, and again these skilled hitmen don’t seem to have any surmountable talent in comparison to Mary.  Oh sure, it’s another example of superhero power, but the problem is…Mary was supposedly trained with some of these guys and they couldn’t do better.  Again, these inconsistencies just don’t work as a whole with this film, but they at least provide some settings for excitement and adrenaline pumping gun-fu antics to show women assassins are freaking cool.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Proud Mary keeps on turning out a plethora of components to entertain the masses. The drama associated with the family is something many audience members will love, alongside the balance the writers established between pertinent action and storytelling components.  However, this fast-paced film took some major shortcuts given their limited budget.  While the movie is still entertaining, it suffers from the rushed pace in regards to character development, emotional balance, and background information that could have strengthened this movie.  And while it is awesome to see another femme fatale appear in the studios, it would have only done it more justice if her bad guys had more bite.  While the action scenes certainly bring the effects, this movie just doesn’t have everything together to warrant an absolute visit to the theater.  This reviewer would recommend watching it at home

 

My scores:

 

Action/Thriller:  6.5

Movie Overall: 5.0