R Dir: Brian Henson | Universal | 1h 31min
Plot: What’s it about?
For an R-Rated twist on the Muppets, look no further than The Happytime Murders. With Melissa McCarthy in the lead and plenty of vulgarity, the film failed to click with audiences and critics alike, all but evaporating from theaters last fall. Was the film quite the failure most made it out to be? Not quite. While it relies more on the initial shock value, it at least attempts to push boundaries. The shock value might be why more initial reaction was much stronger than my second. Viewing this film again on Blu-Ray, it does in fact seem much more pedestrian, but there are some good laughs to be had. I think the film could’ve used a better screenplay as this one seems to favor concept over execution.
Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is a private investigator who’s seen it all. We get an opening narration from him giving us the rundown. He’s also a puppet and while the puppets exist in this modern world, they’ll never quite be as accepted as humans are. We meet Phil’s brother, Larry (Victor Yerrid) who is famous for his work on the TV show TheHappytime Gang. Phil is approached by a puppet named Sandra (Dorien Davies) to investigate a ransom note she received. If the ransom isn’t paid, it’ll result in Sandra being exposed as the nymphomaniac she is. While Phil investigates this, it leads him to a porno store where several are murdered, including another member fromHappytime Gang. Later on, Phil’s brother Larry is also murdered, leading him to believe the killings are connected and the killer is after stars of the old TV show. It’s about here that Melissa McCarthy enters as Edwards, Phil’s ex-partner who is a human. Later in the film, we learn what happened between them, but there’s a good deal of bickering between the two. The rest of the film plays out rather routinely as the two of them investigate these murders. There are few surprises in the plot, but the twist here is the R-Rated world in which they inhibit. There is one sex scene between two Muppets in the film that did have me laugh out loud, at least upon my first viewing.
As I mentioned, Happytime Murders seemed funnier after my initial viewing than it did here. This leaves me in something of a bind whether I should recommend it or not, but I think there’s just enough here to warrant a rental. Just like a lot of films that push the envelope, Bad Santa comes to mind, you have to know what you’re in store for. For some, the very premise might push them away. That, and the fact that many simply can’t stand Melissa McCarthy. I can’t help you there, but if you’ve an idea what to expect and it doesn’t sound repulsive to you, then by all means give it a shot. On a technical level, the film works well too. The Muppets move around freely without anything looking off or strange. The film could be funnier, but I think there are just enough moments to make it worthwhile. It can be hard to get too caught up in the plot when the victims are Muppets. I don’t want to say I didn’t care about their fate, but again, they’re Muppets. McCarthy seems to sleepwalk through the role which doesn’t ask a lot out of her. She works best when she can play off of someone such as The Heat and Spy. Still, the film isn’t quite the train wreck many would have you believe. It isn’t great, either, but it’s a decent rental.
Video: How’s it look?
The transfer looks quite nice. I’m not surprised as this is a modern film, shot digitally and does have a lot of things in its favor. The pretty city backdrop and beach scenes lend themselves nicely to the HD format, with details and colors strong throughout. No grain or print issues were noticed. Really, I can’t find anything to complain about here. The transfer is great. We get an AVC encoded image with a 2.40: 1 ratio.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also strong is the DTS HD track which stays pretty active throughout. The vocals are crisp, but there’s also plenty of action and background banter heard throughout the film. The track is 7.1, which is a bit excessive for this type of film, but it’s what we’re given. Like the transfer, this track satisfies.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Brian Henson and Puppeteer Bill Barretta provide their thoughts on the film. The film is short enough that fans might want to give this a listen.
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes – A little over 14 minutes of scenes that are fun to check out, but wisely deleted.
- Line-O-Rama – A familiar trend with many Universal titles, this is alternate lines from various takes.
- Virtual Environments – At just over 2 minutes, don’t expect to learn much here. We see the locations used and acting against green screen.
- Avatar Demo – Another short (under 3 minute) feature on the use of motion capture.
- VFX Breakdown – Pretty straightforward look at some of the visual effects.
The Bottom Line
While not quite as amusing as my initial viewing, there are still some laughs to be had here. Melissa McCarthy could do this role in her sleep, and in many ways she does. It doesn’t ask much of the actress at all. The film is pretty much what you’d expect from an R-Rated Muppet movie involving Muppets getting murdered. The initial shock value (and laughs) do sort of wear off before the closing credits, though. Rent it, but the film could and probably should have been better.