When done right and with intelligence, foul-mouthed, smutty puppets can be witty and entertaining – take the talking Teddy Bear Ted or the luminous Team America for example – but The Henson Company’s first dabble into x-rated cinema, slated as an outrageous comedy, has savagely murdered the cotton stuffed puppet into dull oblivion. It is clearly another ramshackle Melissa McCarthy vehicle to desperately try and keep her relevant and fails.
The story focuses on Phil Philips (voiced by Bill Barretta), once a cop, now private investigator after getting promptly kicked off the force for ‘not being able to kill other puppets.’ When a serial killer starts carefully picking off the cast of the 80’s TV show, The Happytime Gang, Phil is laboriously dragged into the police investigation; paired with his onetime human partner Connie (Melissa McCarthy) to help solve the case of these brutal killings.
This is merely a prime example of laziness or damn right cluelessness. If you’ve seen the trailer, you absolutely don’t need to see the film. 90% of the puppet filth makes up the entire trailer and what’s foolishly left for the bigger picture hardly raises a nervous titter. The botched attempt at crass humour is stabbed at with schoolboy mentality and slap-dash in its deliverance. There are flash moments taken from Basic Instinct when one puppet tries to seduce a cop, another when an over-excited Phil has a prolonged orgasm covering his entire office in silly string. But the worst attempt of the offending gags comes from its human co-stars when Connie is offered a blow job from her furry suspect.
In a deliberate attempt at plot development, Henson also touches on the social issue of race and the acceptance of puppets living alongside humans. Even though the humans genuinely seem to adore TV’s leading The Happytime Gang members, in reality, prejudice is rife. Puppets are looked upon as a lesser species, the subject of discrimination and jibes with Connie seemingly being the number one offender when it comes to her ex-partner. That is until we find she has a puppet liver which she obtained after she was shot during a bungled arrest. Bi-racial relationships are thinly given the once over when it is unearthed that Phil once had a unique relationship with the only human Happytime member Jenny (Elizabeth Banks).
It’s a far cry from the world of Kermit and Miss Piggy. Sorely trying to think critically of one redeeming quality for Henson Alternative’s first furore is proving harder than one would expect. The violent massacre of cotton spewing puppets may have disproportionately represented its only redeeming quality; I desperately wanted to enjoy this film but far from leaving a warm and fuzzy gut-aching fondness, it felt like being slapped by a wet-fish, you know, just in the forlorn hope of getting a few laughs.
The Happytime Murders is out on August 27