Melissa McCarthy-led crime comedy The Happytime Murders is having a bad time at the box office and an even worse time with reviews, as critics collectively agree that shock humor is no substitute for well-crafted humor. Directed by Brian Henson, the movie is set in an alternate version of Los Angeles where humans co-exist with puppets who are treated like second-class citizens (yes, there have been a lot of comparisons to Bright).
McCarthy plays Connie Edwards, an LAPD detective who is compelled to reteam with her old partner, a blue puppet called Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) who was pushed off the force many years ago and found a new career as a private detective. Maya Rudolph plays Phil's secretary, Bubbles, and her performance is actually one of the few elements in the movie to receive near-universal praise in reviews. The cast also includes Joel McHale and Elizabeth Banks.
The general consensus from critics is that The Happytime Murders is arriving a few decades too late to be innovative. Many reviews reference the broadway musical Avenue Q and Robert Zemeckis' classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? as better-executed examples of the same idea. Perhaps it's little wonder that The Happytime Murders feels stale, since it was first announced way back in 2008, with various lead actors attached and dropping off over the years, not to mention several script revisions. The final result has so far earned a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and we've collected some of the most brutal reviews of The Happytime Murders, to give you a picture of why critics were so unimpressed.
A movie that starts off with a rapid-fire series of shock gags, and devolves into a stupid action film where McCarthy’s character is routinely mistaken for a man (gee, that’s hilarious) and wonderful actors such as Maya Rudolph are left to flounder about with little to do or say, and we just keep hoping the filmmakers will cut this thing short, and they do, and we thank them for that.
Not a single bit lands in The Happytime Murders. McCarthy sometimes comes close, as does Rudolph—but what surrounds them is so aggressively, lamely crass that it would take a true Herculean effort to elevate anything in the film to laugh-worthy.
With everywhere a “@##%+**=!” “@##%+**=!” director Brian Henson carpet-bombs his father’s legacy. In Happytime, Jim Henson’s son seeks to take Muppetry to a whole new level. Too bad that level is the sewer.
Some viewers, perhaps, might be shocked at the association of Mr. Rainbow Connection with scenes set in porno shops, strip clubs, and drug dens. What jolted me, though, was seeing the Henson name all over a project that’s so often bland and listless, so tame in its designs, so limited in its imagination, so joyless in its execution.
What starts off as an amusing idea quickly crosses the line from lewd to crude, with sex jokes both visual and verbal that don’t improve with repetition... Watching it is like being hit in the head over and over with a hammer made of felt; eventually it’s going to sting.
This adolescent YouTube sketch laboriously stretched to 90 minutes is notable only for its provenance – directed by longtime puppetmaster and Jim Henson scion Brian Henson – and its litany of missed opportunities, and it should soon be movin’ right along out of multiplexes.
For a film that revolves around cut-rate “Sesame Street” rejects dropping f-bombs every 10 seconds, Henson’s latest is stupefyingly risk-averse, as though its greatest aspiration were to trigger those unsuspecting parents who bought tickets for their kids. Not only is this movie derivative in every detail, it’s also saddled with the precedent of other, grosser, edgier movies that worked miracles from a similar premise — movies that had more on their minds, and were the funnier for it.
A cliché-ridden, laughless bore that wastes lead actress Melissa McCarthy’s prodigious comic talents and beats well-trod territory with a mallet... Being a Henson project, you’d expect the film’s puppetry to be the one redeemable factor. But those characters are strangely generic and clumsily handled. Forgettable. There’s more fun to be had watching a kid play with some socks.
While The Happytime Murders left most critics feeling cold, it did receive some favorable reviews worth mentioning. Detroit News' review says that, "The gags work, for awhile at least, and [Todd] Berger's script is sharp enough that it never lets its juvenile edges get the best of it." Meanwhile, CinemaBlend called it "a fluffing hysterical comedy that plays to nostalgia," adding that "Jim Henson, as always, should be proud of his son."
Raunchy shock humor can often be a matter of individual taste, and some people have found things that they love about The Happytime Murders. If you've seen the movie, let us know in the comments if you agree with the critics, or if you think the reviews are overly harsh.