The Happytime Murders (3 stars)

The Happytime Murders

Melissa McCarthy tangles with some badly behaved puppets in this buddy cop comedy

Lewd and crude puppets behaving badly has been done before, most famously in Peter Jackson's 1989 comedy Meet the Feebles and stage musical Avenue Q. Now Brian Henson (son of Jim and director of The Muppets Christmas Carol) sticks his hand up the derriere of his felt creations, with a buddy cop movie that blends the noir-infused fantasy of Who Framed Roger Rabbit with the bad taste of a Farrelly brothers' film.

Melissa McCarthy stars in human form as Detective Connie Edwards, while Bill Barretta voices disgraced puppet cop turned gumshoe Phil Philips. Their serious beef from the past is revealed in the latter stages of the film, but they attempt to work together to solve the murders of a group of Happytime Gang actors, former TV stars who have since fallen on hard times. Elizabeth Banks plays an ex-member of the gang who has turned to stripping to make ends meet. As they are offed one by one, the personal stakes are raised for Phil.

Despite the film beginning by explaining how puppets are derided by humans and thought of as secondary citizens who no one cares about, the slender narrative doesn't evolve any further than this. Instead, it plays its one joke and hands in its badge, content to roll out one vulgar set-piece after another.

However, if you're fond of McCarthy's brand of aggressive, physical humour there's lots to love here. She's on cracking form as a sugar addict who goes for puppets on a whim, wrestling and fighting them with little provocation. Her interactions with Maya Rudolph, who plays Phil's secretary Bubbles, are also daftly amusing. If the appealing, strictly for adults, premise runs out of steam, the film still delivers lots of silly wisecracks, absurd, potty-mouthed humour, bodily fluids and detailed world-building.

General release from Mon 27 Aug.

The Happytime Murders

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • China/US
  • 1h 31min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Brian Henson
  • Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph
  • UK release: 27 August 2018

In a world where puppets are second-class citizens, detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy) and disgraced puppet cop-turned-gumshoe Phil Phillips (voiced by Barretta) team up to solve the murders of some TV stars. A slender narrative doesn’t take the puppet idea very far and it’s all silly wisecracks and potty-mouthed humour…

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