When it comes to bad comedies, there's only so many times you can say "that's not funny", and on top of that, there's only so much annoyance a person can take. That is especially the case with the long-belated ‘passion project’ from Brian Henson (son of the legendary Jim Henson), The Happytime Murders, a film that promises so much on its simple premise, but whose popularity falls faster than a teenage boy on prom night. Apparently, Henson has been trying to finance and develop the film for well over a decade ago, with earlier reports of its initial development dating back to 2008 with different stars attached to star like Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx. Now it’s finally materialised with a stellar cast of comedians, it has the potential of being a comedy goldmine, right? Wrong.
Henson has made phenomenal contributions in the past to the art of puppetry by directing wonderful gems like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, both of which rank among the best of the Muppet movies, but now, it seems he is intent on destroying both his and his father's legacies by delivering a film that is not only unfunny in every way, it is downright annoying, inept, and embarrassing. This goes for all the tired and generic detective story clichés that have been done to death countless times, you almost wonder if the filmmakers were attempting to remake The Maltese Falcon but with puppets and foul obscenity, but all that does is make you want to go back and watch that cinematic masterpiece rather than suffering through this cauldron of annoyance. One of the movie’s biggest sins is that everyone involved forgot what makes puppets interesting the first place: they live and thrive by their own set of rules. When you look at Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? it shows cartoon characters living in the real world with real human beings, but they still follow and function by cartoon rules and logic. By just dumping puppets in the real world and having them follow standard human rules, you completely sabotage the whole notion of puppets, which results in a film that's more annoying than entertaining.
Even the talented cast looks as though they are doing the bare minimum, though sometimes not even that. Maya Rudolph plays the same smiling weirdo she always does, Melissa McCarthy plays the same hyper-dummy she always does, the talented Joel McHale is reduced to the tired role of being the jackass that causes problems, and Elizabeth Banks is poorly utilised (even her role as Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers had way more dignity than this!). The whole film follows a tiring formula of Happytime cast-members being bumped off, characters bicker and deliver obscene acts of really bad behaviour, and rinse-and-repeat, so after 15-25 minutes, you do start to become impatient, and despite being a mere 80 minutes long, you do feel as though you've been watching for 25 years. It also seems apparent that Henson, official screenwriters Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson, and unofficial co-writer McCarthy appear to confuse genuine comedy with the conceit of having puppets perform sex jokes and deliver an overabundance of curse words, which isn't helped by the infamously prolonged and awkward scene of puppet sex that culminates in puppet ejaculation in the form of silly string. We're here a while, folks!
In the end, it's truly astonishing at how unfunny The Happytime Murders is, and what they confuse for comedy. A lot of bad comedies just tell jokes that don't stick the landing, but here, they tell whole sentences that don't hit the mark. It's hard to remember a film that was this lazily written, lazily acted and lazily directed in recent memory since nothing about it feels passionate, creative, unique or earned in any way. It just comes across as cynical, mean-spirited, awkward, rushed and downright uncaring. Every movie takes a lot of time and effort to create, and that is why it's a shame none of that comes across in the viewing experience due to how bad it is. Not only is this the worst movie of 2018 so far, but it is quite possibly one of the worst movies of the decade. Congratulations, Meet the Feebles, you just found your new best friend!
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN HENSON / SCREENPLAY: TODD BERGER / STARRING: MELISSA MCCARTHY, ELIZABETH BANKS, MAYA RUDOLPH, LESLIE DAVID BAKER, JOEL MCHALE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating 6 out of 10