“The Happytime Murders” – A Dark Comedy That’s All Too Light on Originality

In a World Where Puppets and Humans Collide, Nothing Really Changes.

Detective Phil Philips in his office, meeting Sandra White for the first time. Photo Credit:

By: Salvatore Cento 

In this modern day buddy cop film, puppet police officer-turned-private investigator Phil Philips, voiced by Bill Barretta, must team up with longtime human partner Detective Connie Edwards to find out who’s been killing off the cast members of the currently defunct 90’s show The Happytime Gang.

And that’s right where this muddled, off the walls, high energy picture loses its identity in the mixing of genres and themes. The first scene of this crossover world is striking- it resembles our own society, with problems that immerse viewers just enough to wonder where the movie is actually going to take them.

This happens to be just a tease though as the rest of the flick, without even a fight, submits itself to elementary level visual and verbal humor that not only repeats throughout the ninety minutes runtime, but also dies upon impact.

Seeing two seperate scenes where a puppet ejaculates makes you wonder if it wasn’t only for the script, but also for a writer’s secret fantasy. Characters repeating jokes to be labeled as assholes works once, not twice, and definitely not three times.

And cursing as a focal point in comedy doesn’t come across as funny, it’s just awkward because you don’t whether to get tense or to join in the fray.

If the comedy is consistently entertaining to suspend the disbelief of the other portions of the plot (which here is the concept of puppets actually living and enjoying life on their own without the help of humans moving strings attached to their backs), we have a winner. We don’t have one here.

While watching, it is hard not to conjure questions such as: “How do puppets die?” “How do they eat if the backs of their mouths are stitched up?” “Wait, how is that one drinking?”

These were definitely not answered.

Another interesting element The Happytime Murders was the soundtrack. In the opening scene, we have an upbeat melody that foreshadows the atmosphere of at least Philip’s scenes.

But we get that same tone throughout no matter what’s happening , playing songs from LMFAO, Bow Wow Wow, and Rick Astley.

These prominent artists’ songs join the rinse-and-repeat mastery that, when combined with the uncomplicated humor, cheaply and continuously grabs the viewer’s attention, rather than satisfy them with something more intimate than simple familiarity.

In today’s world where comedies are a dime a dozen, it’s really easy to figure out when the songs for a soundtrack were picked from a digital raffle drum using the contents of a folder called “Top Hits”.

This film did have its shining moments, however, that will likely qualify it for syndication on cable television.

Maya Rudolph, who plays Phil’s secretary, gave an above average performance compared to the rest of the cast. Yes, even compared to Melissa McCarthy, who is the most notable figure of the cast, but is a one trick pony when it comes to character.

Maya is joyful and witty, and what her character does and says is surprising in a movie that is all around a color-by-numbers set.

In an unprecedented move, we see how the most compelling character from The HappyTime Gang is murdered.

It is not violent considering the victim is a puppet, but it is interesting because it shows that somebody writing the script had a burst of inspiration that would contribute to the film’s success.

In one particular scene, Philips and Edwards seek out two of the members of The HappyTime Gang, cousins who were married.

What we hear outside of the house and what we actually see going on inside are two different things which didn’t confine itself to those of a sexual deviant or idiot’s kind of storytelling which surprised me and was actually humorous.

All in all, does the inclusion of creatures that were made from felt and fabric make this comedy stand above the rest? No, not at all, but it subtly redeems itself with hints of quality that don’t make you throw it out right away.

Categories: Arts

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