Will “The Happytime Murders” Be the New “Bright”?

Matthew Loffhagen
STX Films
(Photo: STX Films)

When I first saw the thumbnail for the trailer for “The Happytime Murders”, I was intrigued.

Here was a movie that, at first glance, looked like it could be an interesting deconstruction of procedural cop shows. A blue puppet, firing a gun, in the midst of what must be a grumpy murder mystery.

This should be fun, right?

Then I actually watched the trailer, and oh boy. This does not look good.

Not So Happy Time

Just as a content warning, this is the most crass, uncomfortable thing you’ll see today. It features Melissa McCarthy taking hardcore drugs, and an unnecessarily graphic scene of puppet sex.

Eughh. What a disgusting trailer.

And this movie is by Brian Henson?! The son of legendary Jim Henson, the guy who invented this type of puppet show in the first place?

Brian Henson directed “Muppets Treasure Island” and “A Muppet Christmas Carol”. He basically reinvented The Muppets after the death of his father, and he’s created some of your favorite movies.

And now this?!

At this moment in time, too? We’ve already all seen (at least snippets of) “Avenue Q” – the idea of puppets doing grown-up stuff has already been played for all the shock value it possesses.

Then there’s the fact that this movie, a buddy cop drama with one human and one blue cop, looks suspiciously like the 2017 train-wreck “Bright”. Is “The Happytime Murders” going to attempt any hamfisted social commentary as well? Are we doomed to live in a world where directors are constantly remaking “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” with various different stand-ins for oppressed minorities?

Look, I get that some people find the idea of puppets being gross and adult to be inherently entertaining. There’s an appeal in seeing the subversion of childhood entertainment.

Accept No Imitations

But this movie just looks like a shallow attempt to cash-in on the appeal of “Deadpool”. An irreverent R-rated comedy that mocks superhero movies tropes has proven financially successful, so surely the Muppet version of the same will be equally well received, right?

Perhaps I find this particularly galling because Disney has inexplicably decided to retire the Original Recipe Muppets yet again.

Following “Muppets Most Wanted”, we don’t seem to be getting any more of these movies. What’s more, the ABC mockumentary “The Muppets” has been cancelled, after also featuring explicit references to drugs and sex.

I just don’t get why people need to make dark, gritty puppet shows. Sure, the original recipe “Muppet Show” and its related movies were never without references to sex (the Raquel Welsh episode of the original series is evidence enough of this). I just wish that the jokes didn’t all have to be about puppets doing dirty stuff.

Even the current owners of “Sesame Street” are having none of this – the Sesame Workshop is suing STX films for being a bit too overt with their parody. I can’t say I blame them.

Oh well. At least, in the wake of all this grossness, there’s one puppet in the modern era who embraces family-friendly charm.

Naturally, for the modern era, the best place to see a more appropriate puppet is on YouTube.

Good old Arlo. In a world where Brian Henson is making creepy sex shows with his puppets, I’m grateful that you’re here to enthusiastically talk about your favorite video games instead.