Dreary, Dark "Happytime" aims for puppet noir parody; result hit and miss bag

Updated 3 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Dreary, Dark "Happytime" aims for puppet noir parody; result hit and miss bag

Mixing mediums has become strictly routine.  "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" intertwined humans and toons, since then variations have blended C.G.I. and other animation methods from breezy family fare to more adult themed endeavors such as "Avenue Q" or "South Park." The diversity analogy "Lars and the Real Girl" suggested making way for androids, robots, and artificial humans. 

"Happytime Murders" substitutes puppets (or marionettes might be considered), since they are large in comparison to those lovable Jim Henson "Muppets."  Metaphorically an interior species, they  hardly applicable of the "sock" and "felt" putdowns. They interact flawlessly with both flesh and blood cast members and a retro looking city.

The serial killing blowing the stuffing out of puppet characters has promise, especially the noir private eye narration. The under class stigma of "puppets" place them in seedy sections of the city amidst strip club, adult book stores, and shady nightspots. 

Ultimately, the 'happy" puppets need artificial intelligence . They have a whoopee addiction, sniff sugar, and spout the "F" word.  Nicely hued, "Happytime's" puppets have cartoonish mindsets; the adult shock and awe might gain more laughs and a blush or two if a few grown up behavior.

Instead the raunchiness appears forced and like a overly peppered Judd Apatow script, the propensity for nastiness doesn't naturally flow. It's non essential (just like some of those overly exposed exploitation flicks i.e. "The Cheerleaders," "Student Nurses,")

One of few favorable notes comes from the noir femme fatales and associated grimness.

Melissa McCarthy   seems a designated foil; she just goes along and reacts to puppet land. Elizabeth Banks and Maya Rudolph have supporting roles, but the sexy blonde gumshoe secretary indifferently chatters and pulls out window cleaner after her puppet boss' in office sexual escapades. At least, the script avoids puppet/human making out, which would be more awkward than forbidden.

Prior to release, its insistence on evoking a Sesame Street original phrase caused a trademark infringement federal complaint, not for its crude puppets, but for too closely swiping phrases and corrupting them. It's hard to believe that ANY parent or child whether from the preview , a clip or the first few minutes of screen time would mistake this as family friendly suitable.

The director (who was let go by the Children's Workshop) has a script that's content with turning recognizable cuddly icons into misbehaving perverts than finding genuine sarcastic lampoons.

 

On the other hand, some viewers level accolades:

" If you want to have a good time at the movies, this is the movie to see. The artistry on display and technical skill is astounding, Melissa McCarthy is enjoyable, and Maya Rudolph knocks it out of the park."

A comparison has been made to "Sausage Party" for reference.

 

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