‘THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS’ & other brief studies on raunchy puppets

Melissa McCarthy in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS. Courtesy of STX Entertainment.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

The trailer for the highly-anticipated, FOREVER-gestating film THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS has been released. To say we never thought we’d see this day would mean we would be lying. We thought it would never come (double-entendre intended) and for no other reason than this world showing us we can’t have nice things, we’re worried that something might prevent it from being released.

But now that this red-band trailer has…well…. it leaves us with a different feeling than the one we assumed we’d have.

Take a look:

Here’s the official synopsis:
No Sesame. All Street. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS is a filthy comedy set in the underbelly of Los Angeles where puppets and humans coexist. Two clashing detectives with a shared secret, one human (Melissa McCarthy) and one puppet, are forced to work together again to solve the brutal murders of the former cast of a beloved classic puppet television show.

So why is it that a film as raunchy, raucous and ribald as this – one we’ve been waiting what feels like an eternity for – not immediately sell us on its refreshing, daring approach? From the looks of the trailer (a small peek at what a film usually has to offer and not something we can totally make a judgment call on), it appears all the bawdy, sensational jokes are there – drugs! prostitutes! knife fights! However, somewhat of a familiar quality to it all. We’ve already seen some of the above irreverence before.

The narrative itself could be pitched in casual conversation as WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? but with the Muppets (who aren’t the real Muppets, of course).

Back in 1989, co-writer/ director Peter Jackson came up with a similar world of puppets doing some very explicit adult behavior, in MEET THE FEEBLES. It was the sleazy version of THE MUPPET SHOW. This trailer is heavy on boobs, barf, and a bunny!

In 2003, AVENUE Q, an insanely catchy and intelligent musical, made its Broadway debut and has won fans over world-wide. The musical, a coming of age parable, told in two acts satirizes and addresses social issues and anxieties – like racism, porn and the growing pains of adulthood. It was SESAME STREET for adults. Songs like “It Sucks To Be Me,” “The Internet Is For Porn,” and “Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist Sometimes” broke the mold.

Another puppet-centric picture that made its indelible mark on the pop culture zeitgeist is Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s audacious TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, which featured marionette puppets engaging in crazy behavior. It’s been 14 years and that infamous sex scene still feels like all-too fresh memory. Nothing was off the table when it came to good taste. And, years later, its insanity still makes us laugh.

Listen, I have full faith we’re in the capable hands of director Brian Henson and screenwriters Todd Berger (whose film IT’S A DISASTER is the legit business) and Dee Austin Robertson. It’s just with a mountain of other options that have come before it, THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS will have a climb. Or maybe, just maybe, it will blaze a new trail. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS opens on August 17. Leave your kids at home.

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