After spending many years in development hell, the filming of puppet murder mystery The Happytime Murders has finally started. Not only that, but the much-in-demand Elizabeth Banks has been added to the cast, and details regarding the main characters have also surfaced for the first time.
Happytime Murders has been in development with the Jim Henson Company ever since 2008. The screenplay is said to be a parody of classic noir, with references to other hard-boiled crime dramas like L.A. Confidential. Similar in concept to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the film is expected to get an R-rating but still contain plenty of the humor that you would expect from a Henson production. The basic plot takes place in an alternate universe where puppets are alive and living alongside the humans. When the cast of a show called “The Happytime Gang” are targeted for murder, a puppet detective and his human partner must solve the case. Melissa McCarthy was announced as the human lead earlier this year, and was recently joined in the cast by her Bridesmaids co-star Maya Rudolph.
Now it’s been reported by ScreenDaily that they have been joined by another high-profile actress, as Banks has been confirmed as the latest addition to the cast. With filming just starting in Los Angeles, Banks will be portraying Jenny, a burlesque dancer who may have something to do with the titular murders.
Along with that announcement, the first details regarding the roles and names of the rest of the cast has also been revealed. Although it was known that McCarthy would be playing the human foil to the marionette gumshoe, her name is now given as Detective Connie Edwards. Her puppet partner is called Phil Phillips, and is “played” by longtime Henson puppeteer Bill Barretta. Rudolph will be playing the part of Bubbles, who is Phil’s secretary. The cast also includes Leslie David Baker – best known as Stanley Hudson in The Office – who is listed as playing cop Lt. Banning. It’s assumed that Banks, Rudolph, and David Baker will be human characters and not voicing puppets – but you can never be sure in a Henson production.
The film has been gestating so long, that it’s good to see shooting is finally underway and that it’s landed somebody like Banks in a significant role. The actress/producer/director has such a full schedule at the moment – with projects like Pitch Perfect 3 and Charlie’s Angels – that her participation can almost be seen as a vote of confidence. After previous false-starts where Cameron Diaz and others were tapped to star, hopefully now director Brian Henson now can pull the strings to create a fun and offbeat movie. We look forward to hearing more details nearer the release of The Happytime Murders next year.
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