The Happytime Murders Blu-ray Review

Murdering Happy

You’ll need to excuse the plot of Happytime Murders. That’s just in the way of puppet sex. And puppet drugs.

Happytime Murders is a one joke idea – that anything raunchy done by a felt puppet is funny. Turns out that’s right. The subversion of norms, wherein it’s assumed Henson’s related (in this case, Jim Henson’s son Brian) is meant for family entertainment, works. Hand puppets (whose “mouth looks like a felt vagina,” according to human star Melissa McCarthy) indeed do have sex. They snort drugs (sugar, but still). They have lives.

Humans and puppets share reality here. That’s cause for inherent bigotry, where Melissa McCarthy, stung after a bad bust years before, needs to join with her ex-partner Phil Phillips. He was the first puppet cop, now a chain-smoking private detective. The human half of society doesn’t accept their stuffed friends. In a gentler film, that’s the catalyst. Happytime Murders just uses it for opportunistic explicitness.

Happytime Murders tries covering the thin veneer, but the gags run aground from redundancy

As expected for a buddy cop scenario, the McCarthy/Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta) partnership is a wreck, a place where McCarthy can freely sling her R-rated comic possibilities. More so in Happytime Murders than say, The Heat, McCarthy’s brand feels wholly comfortable here. This level of crassness goes way beyond what she did prior.

This world is a mean, spiteful place. It’s a spoof of the crime procedural, using genre tropes and their hard tone as a jumping off point. Everybody hates everybody, or is out to murder somebody(s). Cops yell at one another. Puppets live in slums. Hookers (puppet hookers, anyway) line the streets. And this is Hollywood; it’s hard to imagine how the lesser parts of the country look.

It’s hard to ignore the glaring missed potential in this project. The Hollywood setting, where the cast of a nostalgic TV series is picked off by an unknown assailant, begs for better better satire. That show’s cast suffers various indignities before their death. The show’s lone human character is a stripper, carrot shaving on stage for horny rabbits. Another puppet co-star lives in a gambling den. Poor Goofer spends his days in a drug house, turning tricks for half a dollar.

Nothing here is about the business. That’s set dressing, a means to add some glamour to an openly gaudy adult comedy. When Happytime Murders works, it’s grand. The opening 15 minutes don’t stop. Then, the idea wanes. Fewer scenes take place in a creepy porno shop. Plotting invades the comedic space. By this stage, Happytime Murders tries covering the thin veneer, but the gags run aground from redundancy. Puppets can indeed drop a slew of f-bombs. Turns out that’s not persistently funny though.

melissa mccarthy blu-ray image screenshot

Video

Clear digital video is the source of Happytime Murder’s Blu-ray release. That works. Aside from the lightest areas of noise, nothing negatively impinges on this presentation. Clarity is a constant.

Strong fidelity brings out puppet texture, and that goes for afar as well as in close. Humans matter too, nicely defined in terms of facial definition. A few city exteriors, even those created via digital effects, appear clean and refined.

Hardly subtle in terms of contrast, many scenes in Happytime Murders push the limits. Some clipping butts in, if to a marginal degree. Black levels handle their end of things well, dense and strong without abandoning detail.

Color jumps out with vivid primaries. Various puppet colors stick out, saturated nicely. Human flesh tones won’t waver from their natural state. With this splash of bright hues, Happytime Murders completes an appealing set of visual components.

Audio

There’s not much to breakdown here in terms the DTS-HD soundstage. Added rears of this 7.1 mix come into play a handful of times. An alleyway shootout uses them to stretch gunfire. Scenes in a club move ambiance around, and some street scenes do likewise.

Most of Happytime Murders drops into the center channel, rendering clean, unobstructed dialog.

Extras

A commentary from director Brian Henson and puppet performer Bill Barretta is the beefiest of the bonuses. Most everything else is short and perfunctory, if entertaining. Six deleted scenes definitely cannot fit in the finished piece, but here offer couple of laughs. A gag reel is gold at three minutes long. The improv reel, near equal length as the latter, is likewise priceless. Examples of the digital effects work show how much green screen Happytime Murders needed. A demo reel of digital puppets seems counter-intuitive in the end product, but it’s interesting to see how these were utilized.

The Happytime Murders
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

A better idea than a fleshed out movie, The Happytime Murders has some fun but then runs out of new jokes to tell before the credits roll.

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