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)
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.
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.
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:
Movie Overall: 5.0