Plot: Phil Philips is a washed up private investigator, but he was once a trailblazer for puppets everywhere, the first puppet to serve as a police officer. He was a great cop and put up record breaking numbers, but when he missed a crucial shot and killed an innocent civilian, he was drummed off the force. Now he chases down unfaithful lovers and deadbeats, so it is no surprise that his latest case takes him to a porno bookstore, but things don’t go as planned. As Phil searches through some sales records in the back, a gunman enters the store and slaughters everyone inside, including the star of a once popular puppet themed television show. No one seems too bothered, since only puppets were killed, but when more stars of the show turn up dead, including Phil’s own brother, things heat up. He winds up assigned to the case as a consultant and pairs with his old partner Connie (Melissa McCarthy), but can these two put aside the past and solve this brutal string of murders?
Entertainment Value: The premise here is a fun one, a movie about puppets and humans living in the world together, with puppets as a second class of citizens and the narrative focus on a series of high profile puppet murders. This was supposed to be a serious detective yarn when it was first announced, but The Happytime Murders is more comedy than crime thriller, though some of the film noir inspirations can still be picked up on. The end result doesn’t fulfill the potential of the concept, but it is a decent, off the wall movie that if nothing else, can be appreciated for the immense skill behind the puppeteer work involved. The movie is loaded with interesting, creative puppets and when the jokes fall flat, most scenes still offer some entertainment, as the puppets are so much fun to watch. I also appreciated all of the film noir references sprinkled around, but overall The Happytime Murders settles for a mediocre ride when it could have been a special picture. The pace is drawn out at times, the humor is inconsistent, and while the puppets look fantastic, they’re not often given interesting or humorous things to do, which is a shame. But I still think this is a worthwhile movie, as at least they rolled the dice and delivered some terrific puppet work, not to mention some oddball humor and outlandish situations.
No nakedness. The movie has a good deal of sexual content, but aside from an octopus milking a cow, there’s no nudity, puppet or human. There is a scene where a puppet ejaculates silly string all over his office, which is always fun. Seems odd that the movie played it so safe in this respect, but it is what it is. A little blood, but not much. A couple mild gunshot wounds and there’s a nice burning corpse at one point, but otherwise all the violence is puppet related. The puppets do go through a lot, torn to pieces and gunned down in various ways, as well as roughed up in general. I love the puppet head shots, as the heads just explode in big bursts of fluff. The dialogue has some bright spots, but tries too hard to shock at times and suffers as a result. The best moments come off as random or smaller lines, such as a beggar asking for a single penny and then shouting that his wife is dead. Melissa McCarthy makes the best of her lines here, but this isn’t some of her better work, sadly. I do think there are some fun, off the wall beats here, just not enough. As for craziness, the movie does push the bad language and sex talk, but it feels forced and doesn’t add much to the score. The wacky characters and random bursts of offbeat humor do dial things up a little, but some points are awarded just for how much sillier these things are when puppets are involved.
Overall Insanity: 5/10