The Happytime Murders (2018)
Directed by Brian Henson
After “The Muppets” creator Jim Henson’s death in 1990, Brian Henson took over as chair of his father’s company and began directing Muppet movies, like “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island.” Since then, he’s kept it clean—even producing the animated nativity movie “The Star”—until this summer’s “The Happytime Murders,” a puppet noir with a hard R rating.
Years after being fired from the LAPD, first-ever puppet cop Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) is now working out of a shabby Chinatown office as a private investigator. But when a serial killer begins offing cast members from “The Happytime Gang,” a beloved ‘80s show, Phillips is able to bring first-hand knowledge to a case that’s stumping human cops. Even if it means working with his old partner (Melissa McCarthy), Phillips is determined to stop the killing spree before it gets too far.
Bill Barretta wasn’t a name I was familiar with, but it turns out he’s a Muppet veteran. Since the mid-1990s, Barretta has had turns as Pepe, Rowlf, Bobo, and Swedish Chef. He’s a great choice to play the grizzled detective, though the character itself feels a bit overdone. His banter with McCarthy can be funny at times, but other times it gets old before it starts. Then there’s Joel McHale, phoning in it hardcore as an FBI detective who’s there for some reason. Love the guy, but he messed up big time. Lotsa “buts” in this paragraph. I didn’t hate “The Happytime Murders” as much as many critics, mostly because seeing puppets misbehave will always be funny for a little bit, at least. Critics calling it the year’s worst movie must have short-term memory loss. You don’t even have to go back that far to find something more offensively pointless.“The Happytime Murders” isn’t for everyone, but it has an audience. That’s more than some can claim.