‘Happytime Murders’ unfortunately misses the mark

Published Sep 2, 2018 at 9:00am

“The Happytime Murders” is not worth the price of admission. I would add that it’s not worth the degradation of The Muppets, but the puppetry in the new R-rated crime comedy is its only saving grace.

If you’ve ever wanted to see Muppets engage in more adult entertainment, with swearing, nudity and violence, you’re still better off skipping “The Happytime Murders” and hoping something else comes along.

The new film isn’t a knock-off or a cheap attempt to copy the classic Muppets. “The Happytime Murders” is the real deal. The director is Brian Henson, son of the late, legendary Jim Henson, and he brings the full creative strength of The Muppets to bear on “The Happytime Murders.” The film doesn’t feature any classic characters, like Kermit the Frog or Miss Piggy, but the new Muppets still move with the same realism and personality as any of the classics.

If only the writing in “The Happytime Murders” was as good as the puppetry.

In a world where people and puppets live side-by-side, hard-boiled Muppet detective Phil Phillips is tasked with investigating the murders of the former cast members of “The Happytime Gang” TV show, including his actor brother. Phil is a disgraced cop, and must once again team up with his former human partner, played by Melissa McCarthy, playing one of her stock raunchy characters.

The biggest problem with “The Happytime Murders” is the half-baked script, which is full of weak jokes and glaring plot holes. It’s as if the creators whipped up a murder mystery on the fly and never bothered to go back and make sure that everything they wrote made sense or fit together.

Key plot points hang together on glaringly strained coincidences, and big twists don’t work if you give them half a thought. For example, at one point in the film, the cops wrongly accuse Phillips of being the killer because they claim he was at the scene of every murder — but the audience just watched those scenes and he clearly wasn’t at every murder.

The script also attempts to set up larger commentary about human/puppet relations, but that theme goes nowhere fast and is quickly and effortlessly abandoned.

No one appeared to apply much logic to the script. “The Happytime Murders” feels like they just threw together a weak murder mystery as an excuse to make gross out jokes featuring Muppets.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a raunchy chuckle to be had at seeing Muppets snorting sugar like it was drugs or having weird puppet sex, but that raunchiness alone is not enough to carry an entire movie.

From the script-writers to the human actors, it’s as if everyone simply phoned it in as a way to humor Brian Henson while he made his raunchy Muppet movie.