The marketing for The Happytime Murders has fully embraced its “No Sesame. All Street” tagline, highlighting that despite their playful appearances these puppets are most definitely not for kids. The trailers are full of raunchy humor including drug use, filthy language, and even filthier puppet sex. And yet despite the non-stop bombardment of obscenities in the advertisements, the film doesn’t push the envelope far enough overall. Everything you see in the trailers is there of course, but it’s what you didn’t see in the trailers that feels like a letdown. Like anything else going for shock value, it may draw a reaction for a brief moment but in the end it will leave you empty.
Puppet private investigator Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is forced to team up with his ex-partner Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) after a string of murders leaves members of the classic television show The Happytime Gang in piles of stuffing, including Phil’s own brother. As the two investigate each crime scene, however, the trail begins to point towards Phil himself as being the killer. With the help of Detective Edwards, Phil must catch the real puppet responsible and clear his name before he ends up in puppet prison.
The Happytime Murders actually starts off rather entertaining as it introduces us to this world where puppets coexist alongside humans. How this comes to be is left up in the air, but it’s interesting to see them interact with each other in a normal, everyday environment. Puppets have mostly been portrayed as adorable children’s toys so to see them in adult situations can actually be hilarious.
The gimmick wears thin early on, however, as the film continues to dig deeper into its murder investigation. The raunchy sex jokes and foulmouthed puppets were funny for a moment or two, but when scenes rely on the same thing over and over again it becomes tiresome. The story isn’t interesting enough, either, to be entertaining as it follows your stereotypical whodunit plot line. By the end, the film had pretty much abandoned its humor in order to wrap up its ridiculous story. I wasn’t laughing so much as just waiting for the credits to role.
The Happytime Murders suffers from the common situation where the majority of its best parts are in the trailer. You’ll definitely laugh throughout the film as there are some genuinely funny moments, but you’ll be looking down at your watch more, wondering when this puppet show is going to end.