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The Happy Time Murders (2018)

I was really looking forward to this movie. It sounded a lot like Christopher Ford’s 2014 TV series The Fuzz but with a bigger budget, unfortunately it fails to be even half as subversive as The Fuzz was, and what good bits are in the film you have already seen in the trailer…

Directed by Brian Henson (son of Jim), The Happy Time Murders is a noir who-done-it, not too dissimilar from a film about a framed rabbit you may have seen before. In the movie humans and puppets coexist and live side by side in society. They use this as an analogy for racial tension which starts well but quickly is played down to the point they only seem to remember when they get stuck for a joke to put in. Anyway, the cast of the 1980’s children’s TV show The Happy Time Gang begin to get murdered one by one…

Disgraced Policeman (he first puppet cop on the LAPD before being fired) turned detective Phil Phillips is hired by puppet client Sandra White to find out who has been blackmailing her. While looking for a lead at a puppet owned porn-shop, Phil bumps into Bumblypants from the Happy Time Gang. It turns out Phil’s brother Larry Shenanigans Philips was in the show too. Phil speaks to Bumblypants who is freaked out by seeing Phil at the shop. Phil goes to the back to check shop records and an unknown killer enters the shops and massacres everyone. When Phil returns to the front of the shop he finds everyone dead and the Police arriving including Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), Phil’s ex-partner. They work out that someone is trying to kill all The Happy Time Gang and set out to stop them!

What annoys me about this film is that there is a plot present it is just underdeveloped just like the world they have created. The Happy Time Gang could easily be explored in more depth so that we actually had an opinion on each member. There is more information in the P-True Hollywood Story promo they released (above) than in the actual movie. This could have been an interesting world building movie that could set up a franchise but instead rushes through the who is the killer? set pieces before its finale.

The cast act well alongside the puppets which are of the quality you would expect with a Henson involved but the film just falls flat. Jokes that were meant to shock, including a puppet office sex scene, are nowhere near as outrageous as the makers of this film think they are. It just seems that just as the film approaches a chance at subversion it retreats back. With the likes of the previously mentioned The Fuzz, alongside Peter Jackson’s classic Meet the Feebles, Avenue Q, and Team America: World Police, being shocking with puppets is not something new on the market. The Happy Time Murders had a chance to really shoot for the moon but instead mis-fired.

Verdict: 5/10 – It saddens me that a movie that clearly had a lot of people working very hard on it lost its bottle when it came to delivering the subversiveness it promised. A classic “all the best bits are in the trailer” movie that had sooooo much potential to be something a hell of a lot more.

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