‘The Happytime Murders’ Blu-Ray Review: Melissa McCarthy Gets Crude With Puppets
Melissa McCarthy‘s lengthy career has been a very successful one; the 48-year-old actress has won two Primetime Emmy Awards and she currently sits as the world’s ninth highest paid actress. Nevertheless, her track record in her comedic endeavors is spotty; while I, for an example, enjoyed her SNL caricature of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, her resume includes insipid films from 2007’s Cook Off! to this year’s The Happytime Murders. Brian Henson, son of puppet pioneers Jim and Jane Henson, directed and produced Happytime Murders, and Bill Barretta co-starred alongside McCarthy.
Happytime Murders’ world is one where mankind coexists with sentient puppets, but only barely — the latter are portrayed as second-class citizens, rarely given respect from, and are often harassed by, their organic counterparts. Barretta plays the film’s protagonist, Phil Phillips. He’s a puppet — the only one to have ever served in the police, in fact — and his voicework and the grizzled, cynical perspective Phil grew out of the fallout from his aforementioned job recall mannerisms stereotypical of noir protagonists. Although he’s probably the most watchable fixture in the film on virtue of being the only major character with a hint of sanity, he nevertheless isn’t a particularly compelling lead.
McCarthy, meanwhile, cruises by in her role as Detective Connie Edwards. She was Phil’s partner when he was on the force, and her character is predominantly defined by tired McCarthy hallmarks like a few jokes about her physical appearance and over-the-top theatrics. Phil is in theory the straight man to Connie (although he’s often placed into goofy antics too, such as a painfully awkward sex scene), but the pair are forced to work together (reluctantly at first) to solve a case. Popular sitcom “The Happytime Gang” is going into syndication, and the show’s actors are getting killed off. Phil believes a “Gang” alumni is murdering their former peers, so they’ll receive more of the royalties, which is the hunch that kickstarts his buddy cop romp.
The Happytime Murders, to put it in the mildest possible terms, is not a tightly-knit movie. Murders’ themes of discrimination are never explored or even really touched upon beyond their surface-level presence, and the characters and predictable story merely serve as a backdrop to tell jokes. Only one plot development works as something of a surprise, but any impact it might have had is instantly squandered as the revelation occurs abruptly during the climax, the story speeds through it without giving Phil or the audience a chance to contemplate it, and it was just as swiftly discarded without fanfare. Even the visual novelty of using puppets ultimately amounts to window dressing, a shame given Henson’s familial ties to the Muppets’ creators. And as all of this potentially interesting material falls flat, it’s entirely up to the film’s sense of humor to carry it and it fails to. Murders describes itself as a “raunchy comedy,” but that’s only half correct – the film is unquestionably crude, but that crudeness is all Murders has.
Anyone looking for more Murders will find a decent smorgasbord of extra features on the Blu-ray disc. Fourteen minutes of deleted scenes are present (all of which are on par with the material that made the final cut) along with a blooper reel and line reading. Some insight into the creation of the movie is given through the video showcasing the special effects deployed to create it, an avatar video demonstrating the creation of Murders’ puppet-populated Los Angeles, and a VFX breakdown. All of these extras, save for the four-minute VFX showcase, span between two and three minutes. A few theatrical trailers are included as well, along with a requisite commentary track courtesy of Henson and Barretta.