Melissa McCarthy must solve a murder mystery in the trailer for Brian Henson's puppet noir comedy The Happytime Murders. The Jim Henson Company has spent almost ten years developing the film, which on paper reads like Who Framed Roger Rabbit but with puppets and McCarthy playing the late Bob Hoskins' role. As such, most everyone was caught (for the most part, pleasantly) off-guard by the decidedly raunchy tone of The Happytime Murders footage that STXfilms showed off during its CinemaCon presentation last month.
Puppets, like Toons in the Roger Rabbit universe, are second class citizens who live among humans in the world of The Happytime Murders. The movie follows former puppet cop-turned private eye Phil Phillips (puppeteer Bill Barretta) as he hunts a serial killer that is murdering the former cast members of the hit 1980s TV show The Happytime Murders. Phil eventually comes to realize that if he's going to crack this case, he'll need to work together with his human ex-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (McCarthy).
In a smart move, STXfilms has attached The Happytime Murders red band trailer to select prints of Deadpool 2 in theaters. Those who caught a Thursday evening screening of The Merc With a Mouth's sequel last night may have already gotten their first look at Henson's unabashedly "mature" puppy murder comedy on the big screen. Now everyone else can watch the trailer online, along with all the crass jokes about puppet sex and drugs you could ask for.
The Happytime Murders trailer starts out poking fun at the fact that, up to now, Henson has kept things family-friendly with his directional efforts like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. That goes double for cowriter Todd Berger, who has written multiple Kung Fu Panda and The Smurfs TV specials in the past. (Dee Austin Robertson, who shares story credit with Berger, is another matter.) McCarthy, on the other hand, is no stranger to R-rated comedies and seems right at home in a world of muppet-y drug addicts, puppet prostitutes, and male puppets that spray silly string when they... get excited.
Henson's comedy is far from the first movie to put a raunchy spin on the concept of puppets, either. Years before he journeyed to Middle-earth, Peter Jackson explored the sleazy side of puppet showbiz in the 1989 comedy Meet the Feebles. That film certainly bears a resemblance to Happytime Murders, as does Trey Parker and Matt Stone's raunchy marionette action/comedy Team America: World Police. All three movies are based around the same basic joke (e.g. blending puppets and R-rated comedy), so it remains to be seen what else Henson's film has to offer once the shock of seeing Muppet-like puppets swear, snort drugs, and have sex wears off.
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