Happytime Murders: Mismarketed Puppet Film a Decent Crime Drama, With Raunch

3 out of 5 stars (Average)

Happytime Murders poster
Image from http://www.impawards.com/

The Hapytime Murders is by far the most heavily mismarketed film of 2018.  Advertised as a wild and raunchy comedy, the film is actually a decent crime drama with raunchy humor that showcases that puppets can do far more in movies than sing to your kids.  However, people who want a unique (if flawed) crime drama with some ribald humor will likely be impressed at the immaculate puppetry on display here, along with a solid human cast that plays surprisingly well off of their stuffed cast members.  The Happytime Murders is a good step in legitimizing puppetry as adult entertainment, despite a few bad jokes and some questionable script decisions.  It’s not as good as it could be, but my God if it couldn’t be a lot worse.

We follow ex-cop-turned-private-eye Phil Phillips (controlled and voiced by Bill Barretta), a puppet living in a world where humans coexist with the furry creatures, albeit with intense racial prejudice against them.  Phil witnesses the murder of a puppet cast member of The Happytime Gang, a Bear-in-the-Big-Blue-House-esque TV show, and is called to work with human ex-partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy largely playing it straight) to catch the killer.  However, when more members of the show appear stuffy side up, they must figure out who wants them all dead before it’s too late.

The Happytime Murders is a flawed movie more for its marketing than the actual film.  Why the studio decided to showcase nearly all the raunchy stuff (including the film’s best comedic set piece), rather than show its true colors is beyond me.  Had I not been warned by a good friend it wasn’t a wild comedy, this would be a very different review.  Luckily, I did, and was treated to one of the more entertaining (if very niche) cop pictures I’ve seen recently.  I like seeing McCarthy play second fiddle to someone in a more restrained role, and she works decently off of the creature.  To that end, the puppeteers have outdone themselves, creating some enjoyably violent sequences and showing their creations do things you never thought you’d see a puppet do (or want to see, for some).

Therein lies the problem: The Happytime Murders is only going to satisfy a very niche audience: those who enjoy crime dramas, raunchy humor, and puppetry, but don’t mind the furry guys showing their raunchy side.  My theater consisted of myself and two older couples, and they laughed about 4 times.  I laughed at most of the humor, but some of it just didn’t land.  Melissa McCarthy fans may also feel she is underused comedically (once again, the marketing has wrongfully placed her in the spotlight), and I understand that.  The film also tries to have a commentary on racism with the mistreatment of the puppets, but we aren’t told how the world got here and so it just comes off as well-intentioned, yet ineffective.

The Happytime Murders is a solid crime drama with bursts of raunchy humor that will have trouble finding an audience due to abhorrent mismarketing and expectations of puppetry.  The human cast (also featuring Joel McHale, Elizabeth Banks, and a very funny Maya Rudolph) are game for the material, which treats itself just seriously enough to be taken as legitimate crime drama, but not so much that the raunchy humor feels misplaced.  Would I recommend it to everyone?  Definitely not.  There are things I will never be able to unsee here.  However, if you want a unique puppet film that doesn’t give a fluff about young kids, then I recommend The Happytime Murders.  See it.

Rated R for Strong Crude And Sexual Content And Language Throughout, And Some Drug Material

These “Angry Birds” Should Have Flown Straight to DVD

1 out of 5 stars (one of the worst of the year)

Angry Birds movie poster
Image from https://ia.media-imdb.com/

The Angry Birds Movie is what happens when a studio takes an outdated property, finds some half-decent actors, and inserts unnecessary adult humor into a premise devoid of any cinematic potential.  The film is loud, overlong, and dull, with voice actors who alternate between trying way too hard and not trying at all.  That’s not to say that young kids won’t enjoy it: the film is extremely colorful and the characters are always moving around, but the dialogue is immature and overly childish.  Again, I understand this is a movie targeted at young children, but in a postInside Out landscape, animated films like this are insulting to children’s intelligence as well as their parents’ tolerance.  In short, The Angry Birds Movie is the worst animated film I’ve seen this year, its single star gained out of the 5 honest laughs in its 97-minute runtime.

It concerns Red (Voiced by a wholly unlikable Jason Sudeikis), an angry bird on an island where every other inhabitant is a happy one. While people like you and me might see the glass as half-full, Red doesn’t see any water in the glass at all.  His latest angry outburst lands him in anger management class with some other angry birds: Bomb (Voiced by Danny McBride), who literally explodes when he gets angry, and Chuck (voiced by an extremely irritating Josh Gad), who possesses a pathological need for lawbreaking.  This class is taught by the eternally perky Matilda (voiced by an energetic Maya Rudolph), the only character I liked in the film.  This is Red’s worst nightmare, but for us, it’s only the beginning.

The feathers really hit the fan when green pigs, led by Leonard (Voiced by a boring Bill Hader) arrive unexpectedly. While the rest of the island is taken by these mysterious invaders, Red senses something is amiss and, after some investigation, discovers the pigs are imperialists who will take the island resources and leave it for dead.  This causes him, Chuck, and Bomb to set out on a quest for the legendary Mighty Eagle (Voiced by a paycheck-seeking Peter Dinklage) to help save their home.

This film annoyed me. Some critics have praised the animation for its detail on the bird feathers.  I don’t think the birds were much to look at, but some of the backgrounds were relatively pretty (in some cases they were more involving than the events transpiring with the characters).  However, the pig characters were ugly to me and seemed creepy when they moved around (which they do a great deal).  As well, I found the main characters to be unoriginal, unlikable, and somewhat grating.  I was never invested in these characters or cared about their adventure.  I honestly considered walking out at a couple of points (something I never do).  However, I thought it might improve in the end or have a message about the danger of imperialism. Unfortunately, what I got for my hard-earned-time was an anticlimactic 20 minutes of angry birds being flown at a pig castle via convenient slingshot (as in the mobile app, as far as I know).

The Angry Birds Movie is loud, obnoxious, and irritating to no end. Fans of the app may enjoy it, but for everyone else, I would suggest seeing Zootopia again.

Rated PG for Rude Humor and Action

Read my review for Zootopia Here

Read my review for Inside Out Here